The Health Protection Agency (HPA) has announced a comprehensive nationwide screening campaign in response to the recent resurgence of filariasis, a parasitic disease caused by roundworms. The campaign, slated to begin on 16 February, is a collaborative initiative involving the Maldivian Red Crescent (MDP), local councils, and healthcare centres across the country.

Filariasis, the last case of which was recorded in 2004, was declared eradicated by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2016. However, the disease reemerged in the Maldives in December last year after nearly two decades.

The first case was detected on 14 December. All the instances confirmed thus far are believed to be imported, with all the patients being migrant workers, according to the HPA. No Maldivians have been confirmed to have contracted the disease. Despite extensive screenings of over 778 individuals, including 567 migrant workers and 211 locals, no new filariasis cases have been detected since 24 December 2023.

The nationwide screening campaign will target both locals and migrants on all inhabited islands, tourist resorts, and industrial islands. Individuals over the age of 18 will be screened using blood tests and antigen kits, which will yield results within 10-15 minutes, the agency said.

Screening teams will visit selected households between 4 and 9 p.m. on 16 February, according to the agency, where migrant workers will be screened through their employers. If any person is tested positive for the disease, they will be administered medication under the guidance of a healthcare professional, ensuring their recovery and halting the spread of the disease, it said.

Following the recent surge in cases, the first cases were detected in Kulhudhuffushi City, Haa Dhaalu Atoll, prompting authorities to initiate an extensive screening campaign. A total of 25 cases were found in Kulhudhuffushi City, and another seven were confirmed in the Malé region. All of them were migrant workers. In total, 32 cases were found.

Filariasis is a parasitic infection caused by roundworms and transmitted by female mosquitoes of the genera Culex, Anopheles, Aedes, and Mansoni. A person is infected when a mosquito deposits parasitic larvae in the skin and passes through the blood vessel. The disease can be prevented by avoiding mosquito bites.