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Community participation is the only way to eliminate Lymphatic Filariasis.Sanjay Kumar Singh

Anisur Rehman

Bihar: Executive Director State Health Society  Bihar 90% coverage during MDA rounds is essential”:  Dr. Neeraj Dhingra, Director, NVBDCP, Government of IndiaPatna, 14 September 2021: A two-day review meeting on Lymphatic Filariasis (LF) and Kala-Azar elimination was organized under the leadership of Sanjay Kumar Singh, Executive Director, State Health Committee, Bihar. Dr. Neeraj Dhingra, Director, Dr. Nupur Roy, Additional Director and Dr. Chhavi Pant, Joint Director, National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme, Government of India also participated in this meeting. 

Improved coverage during Mass Drug Administration (MDA) rounds is essential to eliminate Filariasis. MDA rounds will be conducted in 22 districts of Bihar starting 20th September. During these rounds, health workers will conduct house-to-house visits and administer anti-filarial medicines to eligible beneficiaries, while maintaining Covid Appropriate Behaviour like hand hygiene, masks, and social distancing. “Filariasis can be eliminated through effective implementation of the MDA programme. Health workers must ensure that eligible beneficiaries consume anti-filaria medicines in their presence,” said Sanjay Kumar Singh, Executive Director of the State Health Committee. To raise community awareness around Filariasis, Sanjay Kumar Singh, Executive Director, Dr. Nupur Roy and Dr. Chhavi Pant also flagged off two ‘Filariasis awareness vans’ to Mangalwar block in Araria district. 

Dr. Neeraj Dhingra, Director, National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme, Government of India, added that the state can eliminate filariasis from the state by ensuring 90% coverage during these rounds. He also praised the state’s commitment to protecting communities from such serious diseases, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, “Through cooperation between the allied institutions and Bihar Government’s support, the state can create history by eliminating filariasis from the state”Dr. Nupur Roy, Additional Director, National Vector Borne Disease Control Program, Government of India, said districts need to follow and work under a prescribed action plan. 

“Preventing new cases of filariasis and focusing on morbidity management in patients are the two key pillars of elimination. The ‘zero hydrocele’ goal is something we should all work towards,” said Dr Roy.  Bihar has 38 LF endemic districts. As of 2020-21, 1.25 lakh lymphoedema and hydrocele cases were reported from these districts in the state.
Filariasis is preventable with the administration of anti-filarial drugs during annual Mass Drug Ad-ministration rounds. Highlighting its significance, Dr Naveen, Director, Health Services, Government of Bihar said, “MDA can be a milestone and aids our mission mode efforts towards eliminating the disease.” A Transmission Assessment Survey (TAS) will also be conducted in 6 districts of the state. This is a tool to determine when infections have reduced enough for MDA to be discontinued.  

“Unfortunately, the MDA rounds slated for May 2021 had to be postponed because of the 2nd wave of Covid-19,” said Dr Chhavi Pant Joshi, Joint Director, National Vector Borne Disease Control Program, Government of India. “But now that we are resuming these rounds in September, it is imperative we focus on training and line listing for effective programme implementation,” she added.

Partner organisations like WHO, CARE, PCI, CHAI, PATH and GHS also took the attendees through Bihar’s progress towards elimination of Filariasis. Officials of the 22 districts undertaking these Mass Drug Administration rounds, meanwhile apprised the audience of the preparations that are underway.