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50 million Nigerians at risk of river blindness

11 June 2015, 16:31

Abuja - Dr Ifeoma Anagbogu, Acting Director, Neglected Tropical Diseases Division (NTDs), Federal Ministry of Health, on Wednesday said over 50 million Nigerians were at risk of infections with Onchocerciasis (blinding disease).

Anagbogu said in Abuja that 50 million Nigerians were proned to the blinding disease.

However, she said that only about 30 million are accessing treatment.

According to her, there is a huge gap of about 20 million who are supposed to be on treatment but are not accessing it.

She said 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.

“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 appealed to government to provide the necessary support to enable the division take the ownership of the programme.

She explained that Onchocerciasis is an eye and skin disease caused by a worm (filaria).

Also read: Vaccine-preventable diseases making a comeback

“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

- News 24

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