Haiti’s public health experts are one step closer to completely ridding its population of a disease that has long plagued the country. For the first time, millions of Haitians are now protected from the infectious, parasitic disease called lymphatic filariasis (LF). With some of the highest rates of LF in the world, Haiti remains one of four countries in the Americas where LF is still endemic. The disease is spread by mosquitoes infected with filarial worm parasites and can lead to severe, irreversible disfigurement (elephantiasis) and chronic pain. The World Health Organization has called for the elimination of LF by 2020.
Haiti, in conjunction with several public health partners, began administering a community treatment program in 2005, but was stymied due to funding limitations and the crippling 2010 earthquake. Adequate community protection from LF has been achieved despite the complexities of administering medication in camps and tent communities. Coverage was highest among internally displaced persons in camps. CDC’s program is funding three rounds of treatment for residents of Port-au-Prince using earthquake relief funds. Haiti has leveraged these funds and other support from partners, treating more than eight million people. The treatment regimen, at 50 cents per treatment, with the added benefit of deworming for other parasites, is considered a public health best buy.
“It is an extraordinary accomplishment by the people of Haiti to have made so much progress during such difficult times,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. “Millions of Haitians will be protected from lymphatic filariasis, a debilitating disease, because they are receiving effective medicines through this program.”
“This success has not been achieved without risk,” noted CDC’s Dr. Valery Madsen E. Beau de Rochars, who has led LF elimination efforts in Haiti since 2001. “Haiti’s Ministry of Health and its partners have gone to extraordinary measures to protect people in rural and urban areas. Every one of them has withstood devastating personal sacrifice,” said Dr. Beau de Rochars. For more information on lymphatic filariasis go to: