BACKGROUND: Lymphatic filariasis (LF) occurs when filarial parasites are transmitted to humans through mosquitoes. The filarial worms affect the lymphatic system which leads to abnormal enlargement of body parts, chronic pain, disability, and social discrimination. In 1999, a commitment was made to eliminate LF from the Pacific Region by 2010. The Pacific Program to Eliminate LF began, with Vanuatu being one of the 16 endemic countries included in this program.
METHODS: In 1997/1998 a LF prevalence baseline survey was conducted to determine the need for mass drug administration (MDA) in Vanuatu. In 1999, the Vanuatu Lymphatic Filariasis Control Program was established, and nationwide MDA was implemented from 2000 to 2004. LF prevalence was collected during the MDA through sentinel site and spot check surveys, and after 5 years of MDA. MDA implementation methods included health worker training, social mobilization, and culturally appropriate health promotion strategies.
RESULTS: LF prevalence at baseline was 4.79%; after MDA this declined to 0.16% in 2005/2006. Average MDA coverage ranged from 75.5-81.5% across 5 years. All three evaluation units surveyed in 2005/2006 were below the 1% threshold required to stop MDA.
CONCLUSIONS: The LF Control Program between 1997 and 2006 was successful in reducing LF prevalence to <1%. High MDA coverage was a critical component of this success. This period of the Vanuatu LF Control Program played an important role in helping to eliminate LF in Vanuatu.