News Archive

September 16, 2009 - The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer
"Health Workers in Tanzania Battle River Blindness"

Senior correspondent Ray Suarez reports from Tanzania on the efforts to prevent river blindness, or onchocerciasis, through a community drug distribution system. The condition is considered a "neglected tropical disease" because of its low profile in comparison to HIV, TB or malaria. There are 37 million people worldwide infected with onchocerciasis and most live in poor rural Africa. The disease is caused by parasitic worms transmitted through the bite of a fly. To break the life cycle of the worm, villagers in Tanzania take a lifesaving drug once a year called ivermectin, donated by Merck. A volunteer program called Onchocerciasis Control, or APOC, distributes the drug.