A resurgence of Filariasis, a disease previously eradicated in the Maldives, has prompted the establishment of a special taskforce following the confirmation of 19 cases among a group of migrant workers in Kulhudhuffushi City. The Health Protection Agency (HPA) has announced a concerted effort to combat the outbreak, primarily detected among migrant workers who recently arrived from regions where filariasis remains endemic.

The taskforce, comprising officials from Kulhudhuffushi Hospital, the local council, and other relevant bodies, has already screened 295 migrants. Efforts are ongoing to screen more individuals and treat those who have tested positive. The HPA has been supplied with test kits by the World Health Organization (WHO) and is seeking additional resources.

This proactive response includes a comprehensive programme to eliminate mosquito breeding grounds and raise awareness among the community, particularly targeting migrant workers through posters and videos in multiple languages. The programme also encompasses random testing, formulation of guidelines, and screenings across other islands.

Filariasis, a chronic mosquito-borne parasitic infection, leads to severe health complications such as swelling of extremities, hydroceles, and testicular masses, and is a significant cause of permanent deformity and disability globally, second only to leprosy. The disease is primarily spread by the Culex mosquito, which breeds in dirty water, a species distinct from the Aedes mosquito responsible for spreading chikungunya and dengue.

The last reported case of Filariasis in the Maldives was in 2004 in Fonadhoo, Laamu Atoll. After comprehensive surveys and a WHO evaluation in 2011, the Maldives was declared free of Filariasis in 2016. The current outbreak underscores the challenges in maintaining disease eradication, especially in regions with high population density and migrant influx.