DOH STH pictureLast January 1-31, 2021, Caraga Region observed the National Deworming Month. Soil-transmitted helminth (STH) infections are among the most common infections in humans worldwide, caused by a group of parasites commonly referred to as worms, including roundworms (Ascaris lumbricoides), whipworm (Trichuris trichiura) and hookworms (Necator americanus and Ancylostoma duodenale) which can impair nutrient intake and malabsorption and these parasites may possibly compete for vitamin A and other nutrients. These worms also feed on host tissues and blood that can cause internal bleeding and anemia due to iron and protein loss. Soil-transmitted helminth infections also causes diarrhea and dysentery, intestinal inflammation and obstruction. All of these could lead to dehydration, malnutrition, general malaise, weakness, impaired growth and physical development and if not treated, death.

STH are transmitted by eggs that are passed in the feces of infected person; In areas that lack sanitation, these eggs contaminate the soil. Eggs are ingested when vegetables are not carefully washed, cooked and prepared. Eggs can also be ingested from contaminated water source and if people are not washing their hands after in contact with contaminated soil. People can also become infected with hookworm primarily by contact of contaminated soil, hookworm eggs hatch in the soil, releasing larvae that mature into a form that can actively penetrate the skin.

The periodic large-scale administration of anthelminthic medicines to populations at risk, can prevent and reduce cases of STH infections. Philippines observes the National Deworming Month twice a year, every January and July to eliminate intestinal parasitism among children as one of the goals of Department of Health (DOH). A synchronized schedule of mass drug administration for STH is done in schools and the community by the DOH and Department of Education in partnership with the different health offices of the local government units. However, long-term sustainable solutions to STH are the most needed interventions to address many factors, including improvement of sanitation, hygiene, safe and clean water source.