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Anti-filariasis drug safe, say officials

By Our Staff Reporter

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, SEPT. 17. The anti-filariasis drug, Diethyl Carbamazine Citrate (DEC), which is proposed to be administered to people in 11 districts though a massive drug administration programme (MDA) on September 24, is a very safe drug, doctors and health department officials claimed.

At a media workshop organised here by the Directorate of Health Services on Friday, the head of Community Medicine department at the Medical College Hospital, Jeesha C. Haran, and the Additional Director (Public Health), M.K. Jeevan, said the drug DEC was less toxic and a safer drug than paracetamol, which is heavily misused by the public for most ailments.

Endemic in 11 districts

They pointed out that the mass administration of the drug was necessary, as all the 11 districts were endemic to the disease and about 80 per cent of the population remained asymptomatic carriers of the disease-causing organism, microfilaria.

The drug was being mass administered as part of a pilot project since 1997 in Alappuzha where it has been found to be safe and successful in limiting the transmission of the disease, they added.

"The only precaution to be observed is that DEC should not be taken on an empty stomach. Trained volunteers will visit houses and hand out the drug with necessary instructions," Dr. Jeevan said.

The drug is contra-indicated only for renal and coronary patients.

However, pregnant women, lactating mothers, the elderly and children below two years were being left out of the programme as an additional safety precaution.

The former Additional Director (Public Health), P.K. Sivaraman, said that even a healthy individual could be harbouring microfilaria in his blood stream, as the organism could remain in the human body for years before the disease manifests.

In almost 80 per cent of the population, the microfilaria would be undetectable through normal blood tests and can be identified only though expensive antigen tests.

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