Published On: Tue, Jul 9th, 2013

Carter Center says it will work to eliminate river blindness in 10 countries in Africa and Latin America

The Carter Center announced today that it will no longer only control river blindness, but instead it will work with ministries of health to eliminate it in all 10 countries in Africa and Latin America in the areas where the Center fights the neglected disease. Spread by the bites of black flies that breed in rapidly flowing streams, river blindness (onchocerciasis) is a dreadful eye and skin disease affecting millions of the poorest people around the world.

Child taking Mectizan Image/Video Screen Shot

Child taking Mectizan
Image/Video Screen Shot

“River blindness can and should be eliminated, not just controlled, even in the most afflicted areas of Africa,” said former U.S. President Jimmy Carter. “The Carter Center is taking on the challenge of eliminating river blindness in Africa and Latin America because we know immense suffering can be prevented if we apply both science and political will to this goal.”

The decision builds on the Center’s strong partnerships with the ministries of health and historic successes against the parasite in the AmericasUganda, and Sudan. With assistance from The Carter Center, last year Sudan and Uganda announced they had interrupted river blindness transmission in key endemic areas, and in the Americas, four of six countries have broken transmission of the disease nationwide.

Together with the national programs, the Center’s comprehensive river blindness elimination strategy now includes Africa’s most populous and highly endemic countries, Nigeria and Ethiopia.  The Center has supported river blindness control in the two countries since 1996 and 2000, respectively.

Until recently, the widely held belief in scientific communities has been that river blindness could not be eliminated with drugs and health education alone in Africa, in part, due to its high prevalence and the challenges to delivering health services.

The majority of river blindness occurs in Africa, where more than 120 million people are at risk and hundreds of thousands have been blinded by the condition. The disease can be prevented by community-delivered, mass treatments using the safe and effective oral drug Mectizan®, donated by Merck.

Moving from control to elimination is a turning point in the Center’s river blindness strategy, requiring that intervention efforts intensify to wipe out the disease once and for all. Unlike in a control program, in an elimination program, success will mean that the countries’ precious health resources can be freed and reallocated to fight other diseases. The Center officially added the word elimination to its program name to reflect the new focus of its intervention efforts.

Read the rest of the Carter Center news release




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About the Author

- Writer, Co-Founder and Executive Editor of The Global Dispatch. Robert has been covering news in the areas of health, world news and politics for a variety of online news sources. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of the website, Outbreak News Today and hosts the podcast, Outbreak News Interviews on iTunes, Stitcher and Spotify Robert is politically Independent and a born again Christian Follow @bactiman63

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