The Federal Ministry of Health has announced that Onchocerciasis (River Blindness disease) has been interrupted in Plateau, Nasarawa and Kaduna States; while transmission of the disease is suspected to have been interrupted in Zamfara, Kebbi, Oyo and Bauchi States.
Speaking recently, in Abuja, the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Health, Mr. Abdulaziz Mashi Abdullahi, said that the implication of this achievement, is that, a total of about 4.2 million persons are no longer in need of Mass Administration of Medicines for Onchocerciasis in the endemic Local Government Areas of Plateau, Nasarawa and Kaduna States.
“With these achievements, Plateau, Nasarawa and Kaduna States in Nigeria has joined other countries like Columbia, Ecuador, Guatemala and Mexico in the Americas and Awi Zone in Ethiopia in the interruption of transmission of River blindness. Uganda also interrupted River blindness in 15 out of 17 foci”.
The Permanent Secretary explained that the impact assessment exercise carried out in several States using epidemiological and entomological parameters, following the recommendations of the National Onchocerciasis Elimination Committee (NOEC) indicates the interruption of the disease in Plateau, Nasarawa and Kaduna States, while entomological studies is ongoing to confirm the interruption in Zamfara, Kebbi, Oyo and Bauchi States.
He informed that nearly all States have maintained a minimum of 65% therapeutic coverage for the last 7 years, while overall treatment have risen from about 200,000 persons in 1991 to over 70 million by 2018, including people living in conflicts areas.
“The results have also shown a reduction of transmission of the disease in other States. The Local Governments where transmission of the disease is on-going are conducting a twice – a – year treatment to fast track the elimination of the disease”.
The Permanent Secretary noted that sustaining the momentum of the elimination may become more challenging as the clinical manifestation of the disease become increasingly rare.
He however assured that as the visual impairment, blindness and severe itching become less and the fatigue of the treatment sets in, innovative communication strategy is being employed to ensure that high coverage is maintained until the disease is eliminated in the Country.
Onchocerciasis is a parasitic disease caused by small worms living in the body. It is transmitted by the bite of a black fly which is the vector for River blindness.
Manifestations of the disease include severe and troublesome itching, hanging groin, thick and rough skin.