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Epidemiology of elephantiasis with special emphasis on podoconiosis in Ethiopia: A literature review.

Elephantiasis is a symptom of a variety of diseases that is characterized by the thickening of the skin and underlying tissues, especially in the legs, male genitals and female breasts. Some conditions having this symptom include: Elephantiasis nostras, due to longstanding chronic lymphangitis; Elephantiasis tropica or lymphatic filariasis, caused by a number of parasitic worms, particularly Wuchereria bancrofti; non-filarial elephantiasis or podoconiosis, an immune disease caused by heavy metals affecting the lymph vessels; proteus syndrome, the genetic disorder of the so-called Elephant Man, etc. Podoconiosis is a type of lower limb tropical elephantiasis distinct from lymphatic filariasis. Lymphatic filariasis affects all population at risk, whereas podoconiosis predominantly affects barefoot subsistence farmers in areas with red volcanic soil. Ethiopia is one of the countries with the highest number of podoconiosis patients since many people are at risk to red-clay soil exposure in many parts of the country. The aim of this review was to know the current status and impact of podoconiosis and its relevance to elephantiasis in Ethiopia. To know the epidemiology and disease burden, the literatures published by different scholars were systematically reviewed. The distribution of the disease and knowledge about filarial elephantiasis and podoconiosis are not well known in Ethiopia. It is relatively well studied in southern Ethiopia but data from other parts of the country are limited. Moreover, programmes that focus on diagnosis, treatment, prevention and control of filarial elephantiasis and podoconiosis are also non-existent even in endemic areas. Furthermore, the disease mapping has not been carried out country-wide. Therefore, in order to address these gaps, Ethiopian Ministry of Health needs to take initiative for undertaking concrete research and mapping of the disease in collaboration with stakeholders.

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