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News From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
July 10, 2013

Targeting the Last Strongholds of Onchocerciasis in the Americas

JAMA. 2013;310(2):134. doi:10.1001/jama.2013.7733

Since 1991 when a Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) resolution called for the elimination of onchocerciasis in the Americas, mass treatment programs have shrunk the number of at-risk people by 96% and renewed enthusiasm to tackle the disease’s stranglehold on Africa.

Often called river blindness, onchocerciasis develops in humans when they’re bitten by infected black flies that transmit the parasitic worm Onchocerca volvulus. Symptoms include chronic skin disease, severe itching, and eye lesions that can cause blindness. Of an estimated 123 million people at risk for infection in 38 endemic countries, at least 25.7 million are infected and 1 million are blind or have severely impaired vision.