For more information on research and collaboration related to this topic in Uganda, please contact the officer responsible at;
Mr. Tom Lakwo,
Vector Control Division (MoH),
Plot 15 Bombo Road,
P.O Box 1661, Kampala, Uganda
MINISTRY OF HEALTH
Uganda Protects more New Areas from River blindness (Onchocerciasis).
Uganda has moved closer to its goal of eliminating onchocerciasis (river blindness) nationwide by 2020. The sixth Uganda Onchocerciasis Elimination Expert Advisory Committee (UOEEAC), a team composed of national and international experts has today (7th August 2013) recommended stopping ivermectin treatment for river blindness (onchocerciasis) in the Obongi focus (Moyo District), while concluding that transmission appeared to be interrupted in two other foci; Nyagak-Bondo (Arua, Nebbi & Zombo districts), Budongo (Buliisa, Hoima & Masindi districts). The total population in these areas exceeds 680,000 people. That means transmission will have been eliminated or appears to have been interrupted in 14 out of 17 foci since the countrywide river blindness elimination policy was launched in 2007 in Uganda. Including the newly announced areas, more than 2.7 million Ugandans are now no longer at risk of getting the disease. The health workers will raise awareness in the previously affected communities about why ivermectin for onchocerciasis is no longer needed prior to stopping treatment. Where LF treatment with ivermectin is continuing, still communities will be informed about river blindness status in their area.
Onchocerciasis is a parasitic disease that is caused by the filarial nematode Onchocerca volvulus, which is transmitted by the bites of female black flies that breed in fast flowing rivers. The disease at its peak affected 35 districts in Uganda with 4.2 million people at risk. It is a Neglected Tropical Disease and can cause severe itching, skin lesions, eyesight impairment, and eventually if not treated can lead to permanent blindness.
This latest achievement continues to demonstrate that onchocerciasis elimination is possible in Africa. It follows announcements made in February and December 2012, and August 2013 highlighting the first eight Ugandan foci to have stopped transmission of the disease. This success also means that about 3,614,553 ivermectin treatments and more than 10,120,749 tablets will not be needed for these foci, and they can begin a three year post-treatment surveillance period that is required before an area can be considered officially free of the onchocerciasis. Since President of the Republic of Uganda His Excellency Yoweri Kaguta Museveni launched nationwide onchocerciasis elimination strategy in Uganda with The Carter Center as a key partner in 2007, interruption of transmission has been achieved in most of the existing endemic-foci. The Victoria Nile focus of central region, the largest river blindness focus where about 3 million people were affected had been eliminated in early 1970s. The Carter Center has assisted the Uganda River Blindness Program since 1996 providing training, technical and financial support, and to establish a molecular laboratory, where essential tests are performed to verify interruption of river blindness transmission. This success story has been through the effort of the Ministry of Health’s Onchocerciasis Elimination Program with support of the implementing partners including: The Carter Center, River Blindness Foundation, WHO/African Program for Onchocerciasis Control (APOC), GIZ, Sightsavers, The Lions Clubs International Foundation, Merck Co. Inc., and RTI/ENVISION. We also acknowledge the support of the District Local Governments; the district onchocerciasis coordinators, supervisors at all levels, and community medicine distributors; and the communities for their support and cooperation that allowed this to be achieved.