Progress report on the elimination of human onchocerciasis, 2018–2019. Weekly Epidemiological Record. WHO, 2019.
November 8, 2019
Onchocerciasis is a parasitic infection caused by the filarial nematode Onchocerca volvulus. It is commonly called “river blindness”, because the parasite is trans-mitted through the bites of blackflies of the genus Simulium that breed along rivers and streams in areas where there is fast-moving water and because infection with the parasite can result in vision loss and blindness. Currently, about 218 million people live in areas known to be endemic for onchocerciasis. For many, however, there is little risk for onchocerciasis-related blindness or skin disease as long as mass drug administration (MDA) with ivermectin continues. Four countries have completed the WHO-recommended process for verification of the interruption of transmission of human onchocerciasis,and many others have stopped MDA, completed post-treatment surveillance (PTS) or both in at least one transmission area in their territory. Interruption of transmission allows countries to protect the gains made during many years of effective MDA with ivermectin and to stop MDA permanently, freeing populations from the risk of morbidity and infection. Elimination of human onchocerciasis would make a meaningful contribution to Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3.3, which includes a call to end the epidemic of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) by 2030.