Radio Havana Cuba | The Pan American Health Organization strives to eliminate river blindness in the Americas

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WASHINGTON, Feb. 24 (RHC) — The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) is seeking to completely eliminate onchocerciasis, commonly known as river blindness, from the Americas, a disease that still affects some 28,000 people after decades of confrontation.

It is a parasitic disease caused by very small worms that can cause skin and eye damage, including irreversible blindness.

It is transmitted by the bite of infected black flies that breed along fast-flowing rivers and streams near remote rural villages, which is why it is also called river blindness.

Although there is no vaccine to prevent infection, treatment with the antiparasitic ivermectin every six months for 12 to 15 years can help stop transmission.

After decades of coordinated action led by the Pan American Health Organization and its partners, the Americas region has largely eliminated the disease, with only local transmission remaining in parts of the Amazon.

In the 1990s, this disease was endemic in six countries in the Americas and about 540,000 people were at risk of contracting the disease.

Between 2013 and 2016, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico and Guatemala eliminated onchocerciasis.

Efforts are now focused on the remaining regions of the Amazon, where population dispersal and relocation is the greatest challenge.

Currently, experts estimate that 28,000 indigenous Yanomami people, who live on the Amazon border between Brazil and Venezuela, have river blindness. (fountain:PL)

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