News / Africa

Northern Sudan Set to Eliminate River Blindness

A laborer tends to a field in the Central African Republic, despite his affliction with river blindness, June 9, 2010.
A laborer tends to a field in the Central African Republic, despite his affliction with river blindness, June 9, 2010.
Jill Craig
River blindness may soon be a thing of the past in East Africa. 

Scientists believe a long-term community drug treatment in Abu Hamed, Sudan has eradicated this parasitic disease, which causes severe skin problems and in some cases, total blindness.

Abu Hamed is the world’s northernmost location of onchocerciasis, also known as river blindness. In 1998, residents of this Nile River town began a community-directed treatment program of ivermectin, a medication that stems the infestation of worms.

In 2012, treatment was halted after scientists found that following eight years of annual treatment and six years of semi-annual treatment, there was no evidence of the disease or its transmission around Abu Hamed.

Dr. Tarig Higazi, who was born and raised in Sudan, is a professor at Ohio University and lead author for the study. His team studied three primary onchocerciasis-endemic areas in Sudan and South Sudan

Higazi said that the findings from northern Sudan are significant.

“And we now prove that the disease is not transmitted. So there’s no more treatment in northern Sudan,” he said. “And hopefully, in a couple of years, we’ll be able to prove that the disease has been eliminated.”

The disease will be officially declared eliminated in Abu Hamed after three years of mandatory post-treatment surveillance are complete, in accordance with World Health Organization guidelines.

Higazi said that this is the first time river blindness appears to have been completely eliminated in a large remote area – with over 100,000 people at risk in Abu Hamed.

“It is very isolated, it’s far away from any other endemic areas, it’s in the middle of the Sahara Desert, basically, meaning that it’s only confined to the River Nile,” he said.

Onchocerciasis is transmitted by black flies that breed in fast-moving waterways. The flies serve as disease vectors, so when they bite humans, they deposit larvae under the skin that develop into adult worms.

As the worms grow under the skin, they cause severe itching and discomfort. In South Sudan, Higazi said, the disease more closely resembles the West African strain, where blindness occurs. 

But, not everyone with river blindness goes blind.

Higazi asserted that in Sudan, for example, people do not usually lose their eyesight from the disease. Instead, they may suffer from what locals call sowda, meaning that the limb appears completely black.

“And the interesting thing about the disease is that it was not a blinding disease. So, you barely see any blind people,” he said. “But, the skin reactions, there are very severe skin reactions, but basically there is no blindness.”   

Scientists from the Carter Center, a U.S.-based NGO focused on health, human rights, and democracy initiatives, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention attribute the global progress in eliminating the disease to ivermectin, the de-worming medication.

Experts like Dr. Mark Eberhard, a senior microbiologist with the CDC’s Division of Parasitic Diseases and Malaria, said that this medicine – all on its own, is a bit of a miracle worker. 

“Just to clarify and be really clear, that when given long enough, often enough and to a high percentage of the population, ivermectin can not only control the disease, but you can interrupt transmission,” he said.

According to the Carter Center, river blindness in Africa accounts for more than 99 percent of cases worldwide.

And within Africa, the World Bank estimates that more than 102 million people are at risk of the disease.

You May Like

Australia Knights Prince Philip, Sparking National Outrage

Abbott's surprise reintroduction of knights and dames in the country's honors system last year drew criticism that he was out of touch with national sentiment More

SAG Award Boosts 'Birdman' Oscar Hopes

Individual acting Oscars appear to be sewn up: SAG awards went to artists who won Golden Globes: Julianne Moore, Eddie Redmayne, Patricia Arquette, J.K. Simmons More

Katy Perry Lights Way for Super Bowl's Girl Power Moment

Pop star's selection to headline US football championship's halftime show extends NFL's trend of selecting artists who appeal to younger viewers More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sidesi
X
June Soh
January 23, 2015 10:03 PM
The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, even music are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. Faith Lapidus narrates a report from VOA’s June Soh.
Video

Video Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sides

The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, even music are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. Faith Lapidus narrates a report from VOA’s June Soh.
Video

Video Progress, Some Areas of Disagreement in Cuba Talks

U.S. and Cuban officials are reporting progress from initial talks in Havana on re-establishing diplomatic ties. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State (for Western Hemisphere Affairs) Roberta Jacobson said while there was agreement on a broad range of issues, there also are some “profound disagreements” between Washington and Havana. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins has the story.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.
Video

Video US Marching Bands Grow Into a Show of Their Own

The 2014 Super Bowl halftime show was the most-watched in history - attracting an estimated 115 million viewers. That event featured pop star Bruno Mars. But the halftime show tradition started with marching bands, which still dominate the entertainment at U.S. high school and college American football games. But as Enming Liu reports in this story narrated by Adrianna Zhang, marching bands have grown into a show of their own.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid