Lymphatic filariasis in Fiji: progress towards elimination, 1997–2007

Manolas, Rosie K., Kama, Mike, Rainima-Qaniuci, Merelesita, Bechu, Vinaisi D., Tuibeqa, Samuela, Winston, Mareta V., Ram, Nomeeta, Naqio, Flora, Ichimori, Kazuyo, Capuano, Corinne, Ozaki, Masayo, Kim, Sung Hye, Aratchige, Padmasiri, Sahukhan, Aalisha, and Graves, Patricia M. (2020) Lymphatic filariasis in Fiji: progress towards elimination, 1997–2007. Tropical Medicine and Health, 48. 88.

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Background: Lymphatic filariasis (LF) is a major public health problem in the Pacific Region, including in Fiji. Through transmission by the mosquito vector Aedes, Fiji has suffered the burden of remaining endemic with LF despite efforts at elimination prior to 1999. In the year 1999, Fiji agreed to take part in the Pacific Programme for Elimination of LF (PacELF) and the Global Programme to Eliminate LF.

Methods: This study reviewed and collated past data on LF in Fiji between 1997 and 2007. Sources included published papers as well as unpublished PacELF and WHO program meeting and survey reports. Records were held at Fiji’s Department of Health and Medical Services, James Cook University and the WHO office in Suva, Fiji.

Results: Baseline surveys between 1997 and 2002 showed that Fiji was highly endemic for LF with an estimated 16.6% of the population antigen positive and 6.3% microfilaria positive at that time. Five rounds of annual mass drug administration (MDA) using albendazole and diethylcarbamazine commenced in 2002. Programmatic coverage reported was 58–70% per year, but an independent coverage survey in 2006 in Northern Division after the fifth MDA suggested that actual coverage may have been higher. Monitoring of the program consisted of antigen prevalence surveys in all ages with sentinel and spot check surveys carried out in 2002 (pre MDA), 2004, and 2005, together with knowledge, attitude, and practice surveys. The stop-MDA survey (C survey) in 2007 was a nationwide stratified cluster survey of all ages according to PacELF guidelines, designed to sample by administrative division to identify areas still needing MDA. The national antigen prevalence in 2007 was reduced by more than a third to 9.5%, ranging from 0.9% in Western Division to 15.4% in Eastern Division, while microfilaria prevalence was reduced by almost four-fifths to 1.4%. Having not reached the target threshold of 1% prevalence in all ages, Fiji wisely decided to continue MDA after 2007 but to move from nationwide implementation to four (later five) separate evaluation units with independent timelines using global guidelines, building on program experience to put more emphasis on increasing coverage through prioritized communication strategies, community participation, and morbidity alleviation.

Conclusion: Fiji conducted nationwide MDA for LF annually between 2002 and 2006, monitored by extensive surveys of prevalence, knowledge, and coverage. From a high baseline prevalence in all divisions, large reductions in overall and age-specific prevalence were achieved, especially in the prevalence of microfilariae, but the threshold for stopping MDA was not reached. Fiji has a large rural and geographically widespread population, program management was not consistent over this period, and coverage achieved was likely not optimal in all areas. After learning from these many challenges and activities, Fiji was able to build on the progress achieved and the heterogeneity observed in prevalence to realign towards a more stratified and improved program after 2007. The information presented here will assist the country to progress towards validating elimination in subsequent years.

Item ID: 66296
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1349-4147
Keywords: Lymphatic filariasis, Fiji, Parasitic disease, Vector, Elimination, PacELF
Copyright Information: © World Health Organization 2020. The article is licensed under the term of the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 IGO License (, which permits use, sharing, and adaption, distribution, and production in any medium or format, as long as appropriate credit is given to the IGO, a link is provided to the Creative Commons license, and any changes made are indicated.
Funders: Government of Fiji, PacELF, World Health Organisation (WHO), AusAID, Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), Fij, Japanese Government, JICA, USAID, James Cook University (JCU)
Date Deposited: 16 Mar 2021 09:41
FoR Codes: 42 HEALTH SCIENCES > 4202 Epidemiology > 420202 Disease surveillance @ 34%
45 INDIGENOUS STUDIES > 4516 Pacific Peoples health and wellbeing > 451605 Pacific Peoples epidemiology @ 33%
32 BIOMEDICAL AND CLINICAL SCIENCES > 3207 Medical microbiology > 320704 Medical parasitology @ 33%
SEO Codes: 20 HEALTH > 2003 Provision of health and support services > 200303 Health surveillance @ 50%
20 HEALTH > 2005 Specific population health (excl. Indigenous health) > 200599 Specific population health (excl. Indigenous health) not elsewhere classified @ 50%
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