When Monty-Gaskin arrived at the clinic, his main symptom was a pronounced swelling of his left foot which left him unable to wear a dancing shoe and, more importantly, incapable of continuing his career as a dancer. “Dance is an important part of my exercise and involves a lot of heavy training,” he said. “This is why I’m so fit at the age of 72.”
Fortunately, Monty-Gaskin sought help early and the physician in charge of the clinic, Dr. Annastacia Sampson, was able to bring the swelling in his foot under control.
The Georgetown Hospital’s lymphatic filariasis clinic offers a variety of free treatments, such as pharmaceutical therapy to tackle the underlying parasites that cause the disease, and the monitoring of any flare-ups including additional swelling and sores that can appear on the affected limb. According to Dr. Sampson, however, there is a limit as to what can be done, as the elephantitis itself is incurable and the damage caused by filaria, permanent.
“This is why it is so important that we focus on prevention so that filaria doesn’t progress to the stages where people start having manifestations of the disease, like the patients in this clinic,” said Dr. Sampson.
In order to ensure elimination by 2024, the country has carried out a remapping survey in 2018-2019 to determine which areas are endemic. Following this survey, a mass drug administration (MDA) of antiparasitic medicines will be carried out at schools, workplaces and other areas where people congregate, to ensure that those at risk of filaria throughout the country are given preventative treatment.