As health authorities press ahead with a nationwide filariasis screening programme following the detection of the disease among migrant workers, Minister of Health Abdulla Khaleel has assured the public that the situation is firmly under control, with stringent measures in place to curb the spread of the infection. According to the Health Protection Agency (HPA), the 32 active cases have so far been detected exclusively among expatriate workers.

Speaking to a local media outlet, Khaleel emphasised the low transmissibility of filariasis, asserting that there is no immediate threat of community spread. However, he acknowledged the concern over the re-emergence of a disease previously eradicated in the Maldives.

Noting that all the cases are “imported cases,” Khaleel said, “We have the situation fully under control. It’s important to understand that it takes more than a single bite from an infected mosquito for the disease to transmit to humans. There’s no risk of a community-wide spread. Our only concern is detecting the disease, which was previously eradicated from the Maldives.”

The disease was discovered during health screenings of migrant workers conducted in Kulhudhuffushi City on 1 and 2 December, coinciding with World AIDS Day. This led to the establishment of a task force to counter the spread of the disease and an extensive screening programme, which helped identify 25 cases in Kulhudhuffushi.

Following advice from the World Health Organisation (WHO), the HPA expanded its screening to other parts of the country and found seven additional cases in the Malé region over the weekend, again among expatriate workers. The infected include 30 Indian nationals and two Bangladeshis, according to the HPA. Infected individuals originate from regions where filariasis remains endemic, including Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Gopalganj, and Tamil Nadu in India, and Bangladesh’s Cumilla region.

While authorities earlier said that two medicines required for the treatment of filariasis were out of stock in the Maldives, the government confirmed on Monday that it had received new stocks of the drugs. Khaleel also confirmed the availability of test kits.

Abdulla Nazim Ibrahim, the Principal Secretary to the President on Public Policy, told the media on Monday that the health ministry, during Sunday’s cabinet meeting, assured that all medicine required for filariasis treatment was in stock.

The HPA is also implementing measures to combat the spread of the disease, which include carrying out the screening programme, eliminating mosquito breeding grounds, and raising awareness about filariasis. Filariasis was announced to be eradicated from the Maldives in 2016.