What Is River Blindness? A debilitating human disease caused by small thread-like nematodes (roundworms) and spread by black flies.
Symptoms: Intense itching, various skin rashes and blindness. One such rash is known as “leopard skin.”
Can It Be Eradicated? River blindness is not currently eradicable, but because the worms infect only humans, the disease can be eliminated in certain regions through annual or semi-annual treatment with the drug ivermectin.
Status: Nearly eliminated in the Americas; on track for ELIMINATION in many parts of Africa.
Treating the Community
Countless rivers and streams nourish the fertile valleys of Africa and Latin America. These waterways are a source of life. But they can also be a breeding ground for black flies that transmit river blindness. When infected black flies bite people, they can pass along small thread-like parasites, which mate and send thousands of tiny larvae into the skin and eyes—causing extreme itching, skin rashes and in the worst cases, blindness.
One hundred twenty million people are currently at risk for river blindness worldwide. But through education, surveillance, and community-based drug treatment, the disease has been nearly eliminated in Latin America. Although elimination—removing the infecting agent from a particular location—was once considered impossible in Africa, many believe that goal is now achievable in some areas. Global eradication may even be possible someday.
Latin America — Making Progress
Africa — Unique Challenges