Public Health Nurses have been visiting pre schools, primary school and daycares on all islands, to provide deworming tablets to children aged between two and 12 years.
Children will be bringing home tablets of Mebendazole, six chewable tablets in total to be taken over three days, morning and evening, with the consent of their parents. The medication is also available in liquid form for those who cannot take the pills.
Manager of Public Health Nurses Rangi Tairi says that previously a single dose of 500mg of Albendazole, another type of deworming medication, was given.
“We always follow the World Health Organisation guidelines,” Tairi said.
WHO are now recommending six doses of 100mg Mebendazole, given every six months, with the medication covering a variety of helminths, or worms, including threadworm, pinworm, roundworm, tapeworm, hookworm and whip worm.
The worms can cause nutritional impairment through malabsorption of nutrients, competition for nutrients, reduced appetite and impaired growth, as well as cognitive impairment.
“The purpose of control programmes is to reduce worm loads and keep them low.
Children will become re-infected, but repeated treatment will ensure that, most of the time, they will have few worms, and this will improve their chances of growing and learning,” says the WHO publication on Helminth Control in School Age Children. “Use of the school infrastructure to administer deworming drugs is one of the simplest approaches to treating large numbers of school-age children.”
Public Health nurses will be visiting schools twice, to ensure that any children who were absent are not missed, and also to provide education to any parents who may be unsure if they want their children to take the medication.
The nurses will also be making visits door to door within their village area to check that all children have received and taken the deworming tablets.
Mebendazole works by preventing the worms from absorbing the essential sugars which they need for survival, which leads to the death of the worm within a few days.
“Unlike a lot of medicines Mebendazole carries very few side effects (none listed in MIMS) and precautions. It is advised to seek medical advice if you have evidence of worms and are pregnant or under the age of 2 years old. Other than that you are safe to take it,” said Shannon Saunders, Pharmacy Manager at CITC.
Tairi says that anyone who is concerned that their child under the age of two years has worms should visit their doctor.
Mebendazole kills the worms, but not the eggs, with it important for families to try to reduce their risk of re-infection.
The worms live inside the intestine or bowel of the host can be easily passed from person to person. The female worms come out at night time through the anus to lay their eggs, which can cause the symptoms of an itchy bottom. These eggs can be picked up from patting an animal, from scratching infected bottoms or from soil that is contaminated with faeces. The eggs are then transferred from hand to mouth and the cycle begins again.
Tips for reducing worm infections include washing hands and scrubbing nails before preparing or eating a meal, and using the toilet, wearing underwear in bed, showering in the morning, cleaning toilet areas, keeping fingernails short and clean and avoid putting fingers in the mouth, washing clothing and bedding frequently and each family member using a separate towel.