A disease known as Onchocerciasis, also nicknamed “River Blindness” has made a re-emergence in Cote D’Ivoire. The illness, believed to have been eradicated from this part of Africa, has been reported in the last few months. Recent wars and fighting have lead to a breakdown of surveillance and prevention programs.
Studies done, as samples, from July to September 2007 indicate 14% of children under 5 years old are now infected with onchocerciasis. The parasitic disease is spread by Black Flies who make their living near slow moving rivers. One the victim is bitten by the black fly, parasite is introduced to the body. The worms (filaria) migrate through the body’s tissues.
As the adult worms migrate through the body’s tissues, there are various symptoms that are associated with onchocerciasis (river blindness). Thick, fibrous nodules are often left in skin tissues, making the skin change appearence to that of a “leopard”. “Hanging skin” is also common, due to loss of elasticity. Some pictures can be found here. This looks similiar to people who have recently lost a lot of weight. As the worms migrate through tissues of the eye, irreversable scarring and blindness occur. This parasit is a large cause of preventable blindness in Africa, especially in children.
Mass treatment is a common solution in endemic areas. Ivermectin is the drug used and is a major focus of the WHO Negelected Tropical Diseases branch. To prevent this parasite, stay away from slow moving water and take standard insect bite precautions. A note to thos who are interested in these diseases…remember the Mazotti Reaction. An “allergic type reaction” that occurs when a person infected with Onchocerciasis and given a dose of DEC. DEC is a medicine used to treat Loa Loa.