Current situation of onchocerciasis control in the African Region: information document
Abstract1. Onchocerciasis, also known as river blindness is a dreaded, disfiguring disease caused by parasitic worms which enter the body via the bite of a small blood-sucking fly, Simulium damnosum or blackfly. Onchocerciasis occurs in 30 countries in Africa, 29 of which belong to the WHO African Region. It was estimated that 142 629 613 people were at risk of the disease in the Region as of 2004. 2. Blindness is by far the most serious manifestation of onchocerciasis, afflicting up to one third of individuals living in communities hit by the disease. It is reported in the literature that onchocerciasis causes 46 000 new cases of blindness annually and that about 37 million people are heavily infected and at risk of developing skin disease. Because of the threat of river blindness, entire communities are forced to abandon their fertile lands for less productive ones. River blindness therefore affects the socioeconomic well-being of communities. 3. In 1974, the international community established the Onchocerciasis Control Programme (OCP) in west Africa which covered 11 affected countries. The initial main strategy of the OCP was aerial insecticide spraying over fast-flowing rivers. In 1987, ivermectin was registered for human use, and Merck & Co., Inc. donated it free-of-charge as long as needed for onchocerciasis treatment.
Regional Committee for Africa, 56. (2011). Current situation of onchocerciasis control in the African Region: information document. http://www.who.int/iris/handle/10665/1860