Health Care Federation of Nigeria

river blindnessThe Acting Director of Neglected Tropical Diseases Division (NTDs), Federal Ministry of Health, Dr Ifeoma Anagbogu has told News Agency of Nigeria that over 50 million Nigerians were at risk of being infected with Onchocerciasis commonly called blinding disease. Out of this number, only about 30 million are accessing treatment she said.

The director also revealed that about 20 million people who are supposed to be on treatment are not currently accessing it and in an effort to control the disease, Nigeria has been applying the mass administration of a medicine from a donor agency for the management of the disease website reported. 

 “A person that stayed in a place that is identified to be risky and prone to the disease is given Mectizan, at least once annually for the cure and prevention of the disease.

She therefore appealed to the government to provide the necessary support to enable the division take the ownership of the prevention and management program.
Describing how the disease works, she explained that Onchocerciasis is an eye and skin disease caused by a worm (filaria).

“It is transmitted to humans through the bite of a blackfly (simulium species). The flies breed in fast-flowing streams and rivers, increasing the risk of blindness to individuals living nearby, hence the commonly known name of `river blindness’. Within the human body, the adult female worm (macrofilaria) produces thousands of baby or larval worms (microfilariae) which migrate in the skin and the eye. The death of microfilariae is very toxic to the skin and the eye, producing terrible itching and various eye manifestations (lesions). After repeated years of exposure, these lesions may lead to irreversible blindness and disfigurative skin diseases sometimes named “leopard” skin and `lizard skin’,’’ she said.

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