WHO declares Tonga free from lymphatic filariasis
The Kingdom of Tonga in the Pacific Ocean may be small in population, but it is kicking big goals in public health. The World Health Organization (WHO) has validated that the country has eliminated lymphatic filariasis — also known as elephantiasis — as a public health problem. Lymphatic filariasis is a mosquito-borne disease that damages the lymphatic system, leading to severe disfigurement, pain and disability. Tonga joins seven other countries in WHO’s Western Pacific Region that have been validated as having achieved elimination of lymphatic filariasis as a public health problem since WHO launched the Global Programme to Eliminate Lymphatic Filariasis in 2000. It includes Cambodia, China, Cook Islands, Niue, the Marshall Islands, the Republic of Korea and Vanuatu. Lymphatic filariasis is classified by WHO as a neglected tropical disease (NTD). This means it is one of a diverse group of communicable diseases that thrive mainly among the poorest populations in tropical and subtropical areas. NTDs cause serious illness and in some cases death, but they are preventable.