Water-based activities make children particularly vulnerable to schistosomiasis infection.
Photo: J. Boethling


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As a Millennium Development Goal (MDG), the fight against malaria has enjoyed high priority during the last fifteen years both in the countries affected and around the world. Today there are 37 per cent fewer new cases each year than in 2000. In the same period a 60 per cent reduction in the number of deaths has been achieved – thanks to the use of impregnated mosquito nets to prevent infection and to the treatment of sufferers with the combined preparations now commonly available. Despite this, according to figures from the World Health Organization (WHO), of the 214 million people who contract malaria, there are currently still 438,000 deaths every year.

Lymphatic filariasis is also transmitted by mosquitos, but in this case the disease is caused by worms (mainly Wucheria bancroftii). Its larvae block the lymph flow of those infected and causes painful local inflammation. In chronic cases filariasis leads to painful and often grotesque swellings of the limbs, which is why it is also known as elephantiasis. In men the scrotum is often affected as well. People with the disease frequently suffer permanent disability and social exclusion as a result. WHO estimates that approximately 1.23 billion people are currently living in areas where filariasis is rife, 120 million are infected and 40 million suffer from severe disabilities caused by the disease. Yet lymphatic filariasis can be controlled with bed nets and by regular preventive treatment of the whole population (MDA: mass drug administration) with worm medication (such as albendazole). If this treatment is carried out over a number of years the transmission of filariasis can be prevented completely and the disease eliminated.

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