Mumu Tutupa (elephantiasis) is real and is here
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Pictured is a local 34-year-old woman living with lymphatic filariasis or elephantiasis commonly known as mumu tutupa in Samoan. The mosquito-borne parasitic disease is affecting her lymphatic system responsible for maintaining fluid balance in the body.
The microfilarial worm, Wucheria Bancrofti, forms nests in the lymph vessels, producing thousands of baby worms each day. These nests cause blockages in the lymphatic system, resulting in what we see as the large, disfiguring elephantiasis of the leg.
In an interview with the young woman, she said she started to notice the changes in 2011. “I saw that my leg was expanding. Since then my right leg continued to get bigger and in 2016 I could no longer walk as it has spread to both my legs. My family and I continue to find treatment. Though I can no longer walk, I still feel young and strong and want to live my life and care for my family.”
She relies on her mother, father and other family members to care for her. She is unable to help her church community. She is unable to help her family. “I have a one-year-old son. He is walking right now and it’s so hard to watch him fall and I can’t pick him up. Even my parents, they’re old. My mother is old and she doesn’t have anyone to lean on.”
The young woman has agreed to use her story to help promote awareness for lymphatic filariasis and aid the Department of Health in the fight to eliminate the disease.
Her message for the people of American Samoa is clear: “Support the campaign to eliminate lymphatic filariasis.”
MDA — Importance of EVERYONE participating
Lymphatic filariasis is listed as one of the neglected tropical diseases (NTD) by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). It is one of the few NTDs that can be controlled or eliminated using mass drug administration of safe and effective medicines. The approach is based on the herd immunity concept, which is a form of indirect protection from infectious disease that happens when a large percentage of a population is treated (killing the baby worms), and protected from reinfection.
For this reason, the local Department of Health in their campaign is pushing to administer the medication to 80% of the American Samoa population. Unfortunately to date, while more than 18,400 have completed the mass drug administration (MDA), there are still 26,000 more people needed to reach the target goal.
There is a misconception that if one took the medication during the last MDA from 2000-2006, that it’s not necessary to repeat or take it again this year. All residents of American Samoa are strongly encouraged to participate again this year and each year that the medicines are offered in the territory.
Another misconception is that the drugs being used in the local MDA effort are not safe — they are! The Department of Health requested and was granted a safety approval for the use of the triple drug therapy that include Diethylcarbamazine (DEC), Ivermectin and Albendazole from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The DOH is especially reaching out to parents of young children to make sure they are given the MDA to protect them as they continue to live and grow in an area where lymphatic filariasis is infectious.
Stop by any of the DOH tents or tables you see around the island — you don’t have to wait for them to come to your area or village — call 633-5871 or 770-1576 to ask anything about the MDA, about LF, about any doubts or even rumors you have heard or read on social media sites.
Be part of the cure, not the cause of the disease. Be healthy American Samoa.