Water

Onchocerciasis – Prevention and Treatment

Onchocerciasis

is also known as river blindness. The infection with Onchocerca volvulus, a round worm is called as onchocerciasis. This parasitic disease may cause a severe rash accompanied with itching and scarring. Also, eye symptoms may manifest which may cause blindness. This infection is spread by the bite of female blackflies. These blackflies breed in streams. Nearly 18 million people suffer from onchocerciasis all over the world. 500,000 affected people are visually impaired and 270,000 are blind. This parasitic infection is the second major cause of blindness in the world. Read on to know more about the

prevention and treatment of onchocerciasis

.

The disease is prevalent in southern and tropical regions of Africa. It also affects several people in Brazil, Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, southern Mexico and Yemen. To control the infection,

ivermectin

is used twice a year in those regions where the infection is prevalent. The doctors diagnose river blindness by detecting a prelarval worm in the skin specimen.

Prevention of Onchocerciasis

Various control programs are present to eliminate the parasitic disease. One such program

Onchocerciasis Control Program (OCP)

, the first such program, was started in 1974. This preventive measure covered nearly 30 million individuals in 11 countries. This program implemented spraying larvicide in the rivers to minimize the blackflies population. Also, they started using the drug, ivermectin to treat infected patients from 1988.

Other such control programs include the

Onchocerciasis Elimination Program for the Americas (OEPA)

which was launched in 1992 and the

African Program for Onchocerciasis Control (APOC)

launched in 1995. Both the control programs were successful in declining the transmission rates.

Treatment for Onchocerciasis

Ivermectin is used for the

mass drug administration (MDA)

measures. The trade name for this dug is Mectizan. This can treat infected individuals with two doses, which should be administered six months apart. Also, this dose should be repeated in every 3 years.

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