‘Neglected’ diseases discussed
Poverty, lack of awareness and climate change are the main factors behind the spread of neglected tropical diseases (NTD) in impoverished communities, a group of dermatologists on Wednesday told a forum organized by the Philippine Leprosy Mission for World NTD Day.
Among the ailments discussed were schistosomiasis and leprosy or Hansen’s disease. “In the Philippines, less focus is given to skin diseases, because people don’t see them as an important medical issue,” said Dr. Mirla Taira of the Philippine Dermatological Society (PDS).
“If you have an itch, you are advised to give it a good scratch. People don’t seek medical attention right away,” she added. Schistosomiasis, one of the deadliest NTD caused by a blood fluke called schistosome, affects 12 million Filipinos in the provinces. It is endemic in 12 regions or 28 provinces in the country, where 2.5 million are directly exposed to the parasite, Taira said.
Worldwide, about 200 million people are infected.
Tiny Bulinus snails or “suso” found in freshwater areas are the main hosts for the schistosomes, said Taira, adding that the schistosomes can also be acquired by drinking contaminated waters.
There are hospitals in the country that cater to schistosomiasis patients, as well as doctors trained specifically in endemic areas to treat the disease, she said.
“But when we think of budget and attention, giving information and education to the people, as well as strategies to eradicate diseases, not much (of all that) is given to NTD, compared to diabetes, stroke or pneumonia,” Taria added.
According to Dr. Belen Dofitas of the PDS, there is also a need to destigmatize leprosy—which is curable and livable.
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