One bite from a mosquito was enough for a South American man by the name of Raimundo to be infected with a terrible, frightening and crippling tropical diseases.
Raimundo from Brazil, was bitten by the bug 20 years ago and subsequently infected with Lymphatic filariasis, a parasitic infection better known as Elephantiasis.
He has been battling the infection ever since, and watched as his left leg swelled and became elephant-like, almost paralyzing him
What is Elephantiasis?
Elephantiasis’ medical name is lymphatic filariasis.
It is a tropical disease that occurs when parasites are transmitted to humans by mosquitoes.
The parasites are deposited on a person’s skin from where they enter the body and migrate to the lymphatic vessels where they develop into adult worms.
The infection usually occurs in childhood but the disfiguring effects are not often seen until adulthood.
It can cause permanent disability.
The swelling is usually the result of a bacterial skin infection after normal immune defenses have been partially lost due to lymphatic damage.
The parasites can be cleared from the body with drug treatment but if elephantiasis has developed, complex surgery can be required.
The infection is typically characterized by extreme swelling of limbs or genitals, though the majority of people who are infected by the parasite do not develop any symptoms.
However, the worms can damage kidneys and lymph nodes even if a person does not exhibit external symptoms.
It is considered a ‘neglected tropical disease’.
Raimundo is currently undergoing treatment in Sao Jose Rio Preto.
The clinic that is treating him – the first time he has sought help for the infection – has managed to drastically reduce the size of the swelling in a matter of weeks.
Though he still has a long way to go.
Doctors at Cunica Godoy initially could not wrap their arms around one part of Raimundo’s leg due to the sheer size of the swelling.
However in cases like that of Raimundo, who did not immediately seek treatment, it can be a life-long battle.
In terms of prevention, although there is a greater risk for long-term travelers or humanitarian workers, all tourists are encouraged to use insect repellent containing DEET, or diethyltoluamide, the most common kind of insect repellent.
Elephantiasis often leaves sufferers incapacitated as their painful and swollen limbs are incredibly difficult to move.
Because it is primarily found in third world countries, it leaves many with the condition struggling to work, and can be fatal.
The infection is found in Africa, Central and South America, South Asia, and the Pacific Islands
Doctors can use anthelmintic drugs will expel the parasitic worms from the patient’s body.
Source: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/ and World Health Organisation