Fighting Stigma: Lymphatic Filariasis

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Zaina Naeem


Mosquitoes are everywhere, and millions of people fall victim to mosquito bites daily. While mosquito bites are generally harmless, for those who live in underdeveloped countries, these bites carry diseases that result in severe socioeconomic and physical subordination (Wynd et al., 2007). People who contract Lymphatic Filariasis (LF), an infectious disease transmitted by mosquitoes, may experience grotesque enlargements of their affected body parts, which include the arms, the legs, and the genital areas. When such swelling occurs, the patient is said to have progressed to a stage of LF known as elephantiasis, a term designed for the elephant-like texture of the resulting skin (Evans, Gelband & Vlassot, 1993).

In 1997, the World Health Organization classified LF as a potentially rectifiable disease. Since then, the World Health Assembly has called upon its member states to initiate drug programs to eliminate LF as a health problem (Wynd, Melrose, Durrheim, Carron & Gyapong, 2009). LF has been effectively controlled in endemic areas in the Pacific, the Caribbean, and in China, but the disease still runs rampant in India, East Africa, and 80 tropical and sub-tropical countries. Approximately 120 million people are already infected with LF, and 40 million have advanced to elephantiasis (Evans et al., 1993; Sudomo, Chayabejara, Duong, Hernandez, Wu & Bergquist, 2010; Wynd et al., 2007). In these countries, medical access and hygiene measures do not adequately accommodate overpopulation (Wynd et al., 2007). Reforming the healthcare systems of these countries, contrary to popular belief, is not enough. Battling LF is an issue that requires a profound radicalization of human thought. However, before we can begin to examine what is implied by this “revolution of thought,” it is important to understand how LF is contracted and spread.

Article Details

lymphatic filariasis, healthcare reform
How to Cite
Naeem, Z. (2011). Fighting Stigma: Lymphatic Filariasis. The Columbia University Journal of Global Health, 1(1), 27–30.