Date: Thu 25 Jul 2019
Source: Kampala Dispatch [edited]
The Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga has directed the Health Minister Jane Aceng to dispatch a team to Kamwenge and Kitagwenda districts to respond to increasing cases of elephantiasis in the area.
Elephantiasis, also known as lymphatic filariasis, is one of the neglected tropical diseases caused by parasitic worms such as _Wuchereria bancrofti_, _Brugia malayi_, and _Brugia timori_, all of which are transmitted by mosquitoes. It causes the affected area, mostly the limbs or parts of the head, to swell abnormally.
During the plenary session on Wednesday [24 Jul 2019], Kamwenge Woman MP Dorothy Azairwe Nshaija raised a matter of National Importance. She told Parliament that elephantiasis has affected the area since 2007.
She said that despite the matter being brought to the attention of the Ministry of Health, nothing has been done. Nshaija says that 12 people are reported to have died in the past few weeks.
Nshaija appealed for government's intervention in the affected areas of Busiriba Sub-County in Kamwenge District and Sub-Counties of Ntara and Buhanda in the new district of Kitagwenda. Kadaga directed Aceng to travel to Kamwenge and Kitagwenda districts to establish the causes of the disease and report back to Parliament on Wednesday [31 Jul 2019].
Reports indicate that several farmers in the affected areas have abandoned their gardens due to the disease. Contrary to reports that elephantiasis was being caused by mosquitoes and worms, a 2015 study by the Ministry of Health indicated that volcanic minerals in soils were causing elephantiasis in Kamwenge. The study described the disease as a result of chronic exposure of skin to irritant minerals in volcanic soils causing itching and pain.
The Health Ministry then reported that 52 cases of people with elephantiasis had been identified and that these had the disease since 1980 since it takes longer for someone to realize it due to lack of awareness and its risk increases with older age. The report said that women were 5 times more affected than men since they move barefooted and spend more time in the farms touching the volcanic soils with minerals that cause this disease.
Also noted was that a big number of farmers affected by elephantiasis were not wearing gumboots when tilling their land, yet the disease is associated with direct contact with the soils.
[The news report suggests that the condition is filariasis caused by mosquito-borne nematodes _Wuchereria bancrofti_ and _Brugia malayi_. The discussion of the association with exposure to volcanic soil, however, makes it more probable that the condition is so-called "podoconiosis."
Podoconiosis is known as "mossy-foot" because the papillomata have a moss-like appearance. It is caused by long-term barefoot exposure to volcanic soils high in silica. These soils are found in the highlands of tropical Africa, Central America, and northwest India (1). Seasonally heavy rains in these regions lead to soil erosion. Chronic, recurrent barefoot exposure to exposed silica leads to lymphatic obstruction resulting in ascending lymphedema. - ProMED Mod.EP]
1. Eid R, Sharma D, Smock W. Podoconiosis in rural Tanzania. Am J Trop