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Ecuador verified free of onchocerciasis

30 September 2014

For Immediate Release: 30 September 2014

Contact: Joni Lawrence, Associate Director, Communications jlawrence@mectizan.org

The Mectizan Donation Program congratulates Ecuador on becoming the second country to achieve verification of elimination of river blindness 

DECATUR, GA USA — 30 September 2014 – The Mectizan Donation Program congratulates President Rafael Correa, the Ecuadorian Ministry of Health, The Carter Center and its Onchocerciasis Elimination Program for the Americas, and the Pan American Health Organization on the announcement that Ecuador has been verified by the World Health Organization as the second country to eliminate river blindness, one of the leading causes of preventable blindness worldwide.

Ecuador’s Minister of Health, Ms. Carina Vance, made the announcement during the opening session of the 53rd Pan American Health Organization Directing Council in Washington D.C. on September 29.

PAHO Director, Dr. Carissa Etienne, stated “This is an important success story for Ecuador and for other countries that are working to eliminate onchocerciasis. It shows what can be accomplished when countries undertake the sustained action that is needed, with strong support from their governments and committed international partners.”

The success achieving elimination can be attributed to Ecuador’s commitment along with the efforts of the broad public-private partnership working to provide treatment with ivermectin (registered trademark Mectizan, donated by Merck), which includes The Carter Center’s Onchocerciasis Elimination Program for the Americas, Ecuador’s Ministry of Health, the people of the endemic communities, Merck/MSD*, Christoffel Blindenmission, and the Mectizan Donation Program.

Guatemala and Mexico halted treatment with Mectizan in 2012 and are also working towards the verification of elimination of onchocerciasis, also known as river blindness. The two remaining affected countries, Brazil and Venezuela, will continue treatment and will implement new strategies to reach the goal to eliminate the disease from the Americas by 2015.

For more information, please view the news releases from our partners:

WHO/PAHO
Ecuador’s Ministry of Health (Spanish)
The Carter Center’s Onchocerciasis Elimination Program for the Americas 

About The Mectizan Donation Program

In October 1987, Merck announced it would donate the medication MECTIZAN to all who need it for as long as necessary until onchocerciasis is eliminated. In 1998, Merck expanded the mandate of the Program to include the donation of Mectizan for the elimination of lymphatic filariasis in countries where the two diseases overlap. The Mectizan Donation Program reaches more than 150 million people annually. www.mectizan.org

About MSD

*Merck is known as MSD outside the US and Canada. Today’s Merck is a global healthcare leader working to help the world be well. Through Merck’s prescription medicines, vaccines, biologic therapies, and consumer care and animal health products, Merck operates in more than 140 countries to deliver innovative health solutions and increase access to healthcare through far-reaching policies, programs and partnerships. For more information, visit www.merck.com.

About The Carter Center’s Onchocerciasis Elimination Program of the Americas (OEPA)

The Carter Center – through its sponsorship of  OEPA – is leading a coalition of partners in a historic effort to eliminate river blindness from the Western Hemisphere. The Carter Center was founded in 1982 by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, in partnership with Emory University, to advance peace and health worldwide. For more information, visit www.oepa.net or www.cartercenter.org