Colombia is world’s first country to wipe out river blindness – WHO

Thursday, August 1, 2013

BOGOTA (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Colombia has become the first country in the world to eradicate river blindness through the distribution of an anti-parasitic drug in affected parts of the South American nation and a sustained health education campaign in local communities, the World Health Organization (WHO) has said.

The United Nations health agency officially announced the breakthrough against the disease during a meeting on Monday in Bogota with the Colombian president, health officials and campaigners against river blindness.

Dr Carissa Etienne, who heads the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO), the regional arm of WHO in the Americas, said Colombia’s achievement is “an example of commitment, persistence, and integrated work”.

River blindness, also known as onchocerciasis, is caused when the roundworm Onchocerca volvulus is spread to humans by the bite of an infected black fly common in river areas. The parasite causes eye damage that can lead to skin disease and blindness.

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation (link opens in a new window)

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