Public Health: Cameroon on the offensive to prevent River Blindness

Onchocerciasis (River Blindness) is a parasitic disease with an insect vector that breeds in water.

It is the world’s second leading infectious cause of blindness.

There is currently no official data on the situation in Cameroon but it is estimated that approximately 1% of the population is affected (Sight Savers International).

Onchocerciasis is caused by a parasitic worm capable of living in the human body for 14 years.

It is spread through the bite of a black fly which breeds in fast-flowing rivers and streams.

Symptoms include: rashes, lesions, intense itching and depigmentation of the skin.

A total of 18 million people are infected with the disease and have tiny worms under the skin (dermal microfilariae).

Of the 120 million people world-wide vulnerable to onchocerciasis, 96% are in Africa.

Cameroon is amongst the worst affected countries in Africa. Other affected countries are Angola, Burundi, Chad, the Central African Republic (CAR), the Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Equatorial-Guinea, Gabon, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Uganda, Sudan and Tanzania.

Cameroon has however embarked on an innovative strategy based on semi-annual ivermectin treatment to contain the infection.

The treatment is being administered in the bordering districts of the Centre and West Regions and other parts of the country with persistent high prevalence rate.

Nyibeche Momoh Dero (Intern)

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