In an effort to eradicate the mosquito-borne disease filaria, the Government, through the Public Health Ministry, will be spending over US$1 million in pills and sensitisation procedures this year.Filaria pill distribution process ongoingThis was related by Public Health Minister Volda Lawrence during a recent interview. Although the Minister was unable to say specifically how much money was being spent on the Mass Drug Administration (MDA) programme, which was currently being rolled out in four administrative regions, she noted that the Ministry would invest all it had to, to protect its citizens.At the launch of the MDA programme earlier this month, Senior Health Officer Quincy Jones disclosed that each year about US$1 million was spent on the distribution process.Lawrence said, “This year we’re on that push to ensure that we can eradicate filaria from Guyana. It’s a big project for the Ministry of Public Health, we believe that we can do it and we have invested more money with the help of our partners PAHO/WHO (Pan American Organisation/World Health Organisation).”It was in the same breath that the subject Minister sought to explain how the additional money was being spent. According to her, “We have had quite a lot of educational pieces, educating people so that persons wouldn’t get caught up with the rumours and people (who are) just saying things without evidence.”Lawrence reported that so far the MDA programme, which officially began two Mondays ago, has been successful as locals were more interested in taking the pills to prevent the dreaded disease from affecting their lymphatic glands, causing the legs, breasts and even penis to swell, which was often referred to as “goadie”, with the disease often called “big foot”.The Minister said although some were excited to take the pills, others were more concerned about the side effects. As a result, she noted that more information would be provided for locals on the side effects, which are mild, as well as the benefits of consuming the tablets.The four regions benefiting from the free pills – albendazole and diethylcarbamazine citrate (DEC) – are Regions Three (Essequibo Islands-West Demerara); Four (Demerara-Mahaica); Five (Mahaica-Berbice) and 10 (Upper Demerara-Berbice) as these were found to be the most affected Regions in a survey conducted by the Ministry a few years ago.The number of tablets will vary per age, and they are not to be given to pregnant women and children below the age of two years old. It is said that a person requires five annual doses of the pills before they become immune to the mosquito-borne disease.Although the pills are being distributed in these four Regions, a Senior Health Officer had assured that the Ministry has not forgotten about the other regions.“Whilst we enjoy the success of the past year and buckle down to the challenges of this year to continually roll out the MDA programme within these four Regions that is currently undertaking, I urge the members of the public and the media to know that the other Regions … are not forgotten,” Jones pointed out.Persons are being urged by the Ministry to take the pills as they will prevent the spread of lymphatic filaria which has no signs or symptoms during the first 10 years a person is infected.It was disclosed during the launch of the MDA programme that epidemiology coverage has improved from 45.7 per cent in 2015, to 54.42 per cent in 2016 as only two Regions received the pills back in 2015, and the Government was able to extend the pill distribution to four in 2016.This was still, however, no major achievement for the country as the pass mark for coverage percentage was 65 per cent, according to PAHO/WHO. The country was finally able to achieve this last year, achieving 86 per cent epidemiology coverage.