- Onchocerciasis, also known as river blindness, is the world’s second-leading infectious cause of blindness. It is caused by parasitic worms that are transmitted through the bite of the black fly.
- In Africa, 37 million people are infected with onchocerciasis, and 90 million worldwide are at risk of infection.
- Blindness is accompanied by skin deformation as well as severe itching.
- Fear of contracting the disease has caused many people to abandon the fertile land along rivers, which, in turn, has led to disastrous socioeconomic effects in stricken areas and countries.
What HKI Is Doing
- An annual dose of the drug Mectizan® (ivermectin), generously donated by Merck & Co., Inc., prevents symptoms of onchocerciasis for one year. In order to eliminate onchocerciasis as a public health problem, the drug must be given to 65% of community members for 15-20 years, the life cycle of the worms.
- Helen Keller International encourages communities to take responsibility for their health by providing them with training, information, and education about preventing and treating the disease. HKI also provides training and guidance to the health workers who are the Community-Directed Distributors of Mectizan® as part of our onchocerciasis control program.