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Carter Center Congratulates Nasarawa and Plateau States for Setting Global Example in Fight to Eradicate Lymphatic Filariasis

Contacts: Emily Staub, The Carter Center, emily.staub@emory.edu
Tele: +1-404-420-5126

ATLANTA… The Carter Center congratulates Nasarawa and Plateau states for becoming the first Nigerian states to stop transmission of lymphatic filariasis (LF), a parasitic disease most commonly known for causing elephantiasis.  The parasites that cause LF (Wuchereria bancrofti, Brugia malayi, Brugia timori) are transmitted by mosquitoes and live in the lymphatic system of sufferers. Repeated infection can lead to severe swelling of a person's limbs and genitals, a condition called elephantiasis.

"Nasarawa's and Plateau's achievement, stopping transmission of lymphatic filariasis in two states of Nigeria, Africa's most endemic country, demonstrates that eradication is possible and more than 1 billion people can be protected from this debilitating disease forever," said former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, founder of The Carter Center, which has supported the two Nigerian state governments since 1999 in their effort to prove that LF can be wiped out using currently available tools.

Nasarawa and Plateau stopped transmission of LF by distributing a combination of oral drug treatment of ivermectin, donated by Merck, and albendazole, and by distributing long-lasting insecticidal bed nets, donated by the Clarke Cares Foundation/Clarke Mosquito Control and Vestergaard Frandsen. Both states also provided community-based health education, including teaching improved hygiene techniques to prevent the bacterial infections associated with advanced LF symptoms.

The announcement that transmission had been stopped in the two adjacent central Nigerian states was made after assessment surveys administered with the help of The Carter Center confirmed the prevalence of LF was low enough to ensure the disease could no longer be transmitted. Once transmission is judged to have been interrupted, mass drug administration can be halted. Thanks to the success in Nasarawa and Plateau, the program has been given the green light to expand into other parts of Nigeria, where The Carter Center will help bundle health services to combat LF, river blindness, and schistosomiasis using an integrated drug treatment approach.

Community leaders, local ministry of health personnel, and the community members played a crucial role in Nasarawa's and Plateau's pioneering success, in which more than 33 million drug treatments and nearly 9.4 million nets have been distributed since Carter Center support began in 1999.  Net distribution started as a way to protect pregnant women and children who were not eligible for drug treatment, but was expanded to cover entire endemic communities as a part of Nigeria's decision to distribute bed nets to all.

The Nigerian Federal Ministry of Health declared that mass drug administration for LF could be stopped in both states in 2013, and post-treatment surveillance could start. After a three-year surveillance period, the program will conduct a follow-up transmission assessment survey to prove the disease is gone. River blindness (onchocerciasis) is co-endemic with LF in several parts of Nigeria. As such, The Carter Center is still providing ivermectin drug treatment for river blindness in 12 of the 30 local government areas in Nasarawa and Plateau with the aim of eliminating the disease in these states by 2020.

LF is one of only seven diseases that the Carter Center's International Task Force for Disease Eradication has named as potentially eradicable. A pioneer in eradication and elimination, The Carter Center spearheads the international campaign to eradicate Guinea worm disease, leads the campaign to eliminate river blindness in the Americas and four African countries, and advocates to rid the island of Hispaniola of malaria and LF. In 2009, The Carter Center expanded its work in Ethiopia to take on LF in 20 districts in support of that country's goal of eliminating LF by 2020.

The Carter Center's work on LF is part of the Global Alliance to Eliminate Lymphatic Filariasis, a diverse group of organizations dedicated to ridding the world of the debilitating disease. As a partner on the Envision Project, based at RTI International and funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), The Carter Center and RTI International are supporting neglected tropical disease (NTD) control and elimination in Nigeria. In addition, other current supporters of the Carter Center's Lymphatic Filariasis Elimination Program in Nigeria include several family foundations and individual donors.  Their generous support is critical to making our work possible.

LF is a parasitic infection that, in Africa, is usually spread by the same mosquitoes that transmit malaria. The disease causes swelling of limbs (lymphoedema and elephantiasis) and genital organs (scrotal hydrocele), and painful recurrent attacks of acute fever and inflamed lymph vessels (adenolymphangitis).  Considered a neglected tropical disease, LF almost exclusively affects the world's poorest people.  Approximately one fifth of the world's population (1.3 billion people) is at risk of contracting LF and approximately 120 million people in 83 countries are currently infected. Worldwide, Nigeria has the third most people at risk of contracting the disease, behind only India and Indonesia.

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Editor's Note: Watch the companion video, "Nigeria Halts Lymphatic Filariasis in Two States"

"Waging Peace. Fighting Disease. Building Hope."
 A not-for-profit, nongovernmental organization, The Carter Center has helped to improve life for people in more than 70 countries by resolving conflicts; advancing democracy, human rights, and economic opportunity; preventing diseases; and improving mental health care.  The Center was founded in 1982 by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, in partnership with Emory University, to advance peace and health worldwide. Please visit 
www.cartercenter.org to learn more about The Carter Center.

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Nigeria Halts Lymphatic Filiariasis in Two States


Watch Video


All photos: The Carter Center/E. Staub
(Click to enlarge)

Shehu Lliya, a Nigerian man with elephantiasis — the most extreme form of lymphatic filariasis — shows how the disease has disfigured his leg. Now, with the help of The Carter Center, transmission of the disease has been stopped in Lliya's community.


(Click to enlarge)

A man in Nigeria washes his swollen leg, caused by lymphatic filariasis. While nothing can completely eliminate the swelling, proper hygiene can reduce the complications caused by the disease.

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