Onchocerciasis – or “river blindness” – is a parasitic disease caused by the filarial worm Onchocerca volvulus transmitted by repeated bites of infected blackflies (Simulium spp.). These blackflies breed along fast-flowing rivers and streams, close to remote villages located near fertile land where people rely on agriculture.
There is a need to reinforce skills of national and district health workers to know and identify the disease, understand the risk factors according to the context and living conditions of the affected communities, and promote the implementation of public health interventions. With the shift from control to elimination, large areas in Africa require mapping to assess whether transmission is active, and treatment required. A sampling strategy named Onchocerciasis elimination mapping has been developed to help countries conduct those assessments and start treatment where needed.
This course examines the epidemiology of Onchocerciasis, clinical aspects, impact, diagnosis, treatment and control, elimination, public health interventions and role of community health workers.
Photo credits: Sightsavers
Onchocerciasis has been included as part of the skin-neglected tropical diseases in the NTD road map 2021-2030 launched by WHO in 2020. Onchocerciasis is transmitted to humans through exposure to repeated bites of infected blackflies of the genus Simulium. More than 99% of infected people live in 31 African countries. The disease also exists in some foci in two countries in Latin America (the Yanomani area in Brazil and Venezuela) and Yemen. The Global Burden of Disease Study estimated in 2017 that at least 220 million people required preventive chemotherapy against Onchocerciasis, 14.6 million of the infected people already had skin disease and 1.15 million had vision loss Population-based treatment with ivermectin (also known as mass drug administration or MDA) is the current core strategy to eliminate onchocerciasis, with a minimum requirement of 80% therapeutic coverage. Four countries have been verified by WHO as free of onchocerciasis after successfully implementing elimination activities for decades: Colombia (2013), Ecuador (2014), Mexico (2015), and Guatemala (2016). Globally 1.8 million people live in areas that no longer require mass drug administration for onchocerciasis.
The course includes background information on skin-NTDs, epidemiology of onchocerciasis, pathogenesis and clinical pathology, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention, socioeconomic impact, and public health interventions.
Certificates: A Record of Achievement certificate will be available to participants who score at least 80% in the final assessment. Participants who receive a Record of Achievement can also download an Open Badge for this course. Click here to learn how.