Notre Dame Haiti Program
Lymphatic Filariasis: clinical, public health, and research opportunities. Additionally: We host mobile clinics for partner Hopital St. Croix. We provide opportunities for surgeons to repair LF induced hydroceles.
- $50/night (includes 3 meals/day) at Residance Filarose (International Reference Center for Lymphatic Filariasis)
- Small transportation fees, but vehicles are available for use
- Translators available for hire
- OR space is provided at affiliate hospitals
- Mobile Clinic groups are asked to bring their own medicines
More than 1.2 billion people around the world are threatened by lymphatic filariasis (LF), one of thirteen neglected tropical diseases. This debilitating disease affects 120 million people in 83 countries, including Brazil, India, and much of Central Africa. Caused by thread-like parasitic worms that attack the lymphatic system, LF is usually contracted during childhood, often before age five, but the disease manifests itself in adulthood.
More than 40 million people—the poorest of the poor—are seriously incapacitated by the swelling of the limbs, breasts, and genitals caused by LF. Next to mental illness, LF is the leading cause of disability in the world. Annual economic losses are estimated at $4 billion. LF is one of only six infectious diseases considered eliminable by the World Health Assembly, which has set a timetable for worldwide elimination by 2020.
LF is not generally a fatal disease, and therefore tends to receive less attention than killers such as AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria. However, the overt manifestations of LF—such as elephantiasis and male hydrocele—maim, disfigure, and socially isolate people for a lifetime. Filarial infection also renders tissues especially susceptible to injuries and a host of normally innocuous bacteria and fungi. Even young infected hildren likely suffer some kidney and lung impairment due to thousands of circulating filarial worms in the blood, though they often do not yet display the overt manifestations of the disease. In people with lymphedema or elephantiasis, acute inflammatory attacks of the lymph nodes and vessels can be so severe they generate second-degree burns and require emergency treatment. In some cases, complications from infections compounded by a person’s LF-compromised lymphatic system can be fatal.
The Haiti Program’s current strategy for nationwide LF elimination draws primarily on two strategies: Mass Drug Administration and DEC (Diethylecarbamizine) fortified salt products. Because DEC only prevents transmission, and the WHO has emphasizes the importance of treating symptoms in addition to stopping transmission, The Notre Dame Haiti Program has an outpatient LF clinic and a Urogenital component to the program which addresses the only manifestation of LF which can be surgically repaired: hydrocele. At this point the program has performed over 800 free hydrocele repairs to men in Leogane and the surrounding area. The program is always looking for surgeons to volunteer their skills here in Haiti. Additionally, the program, and its affiliate Hopital St. Croix, are always willing to host visiting groups of primary care medical teams interested in serving the needs of the local community.