The 9th session of the Uganda Onchocerciasis Elimination Expert Advisory Committee in Kampala last week revealed some good news concerning the battle against river blindness, or onchocerciasis.
Health ministry officials report that data shows river blindness has been eliminated in 13 districts, reducing the adult population most at risk of the skin and eye disease to about 1.8 million Ugandans, according to a local media report.
The parasitic disease was eradicated from the following districts: Kabarole, Kyenjojo, Buhweju, Rubirizi, Mitooma, Bushenyi, Mbale, Sironko, Bududa, Manafwa, Ibanda, Kamwenje and Moyo districts.
Assistant commissioner for health services in charge of neglected tropical diseases at the ministry’s vector control division, Dr. Edridah Muheki Tukamuhebwa said said the target was to eliminate the disease out of Uganda by 2020.
Onchocerciasis is a parasitic disease (Onchocerca volvulus) that afflicts the rural poor. It is caused by a worm that is spread by the bites of Simulium black flies which breed in rapid-flowing rivers and streams. The disease can cause intense itching, eye damage, and irreversible blindness, reducing an individual’s ability to work and learn. Worldwide, an estimated 18 million people are infected and 270,000 blinded by the disease. Onchocerciasis affects countries in Africa and Latin America, as well as Yemen.