The World Health Organization (WHO) announced on 29th September 2014, that Ecuador officially has been declared free of river blindness, also known as onchocerciasis.
River blindness is one of the leading causes of blindness worldwide. It is spread by the bite of an infected black fly, which releases larvae under the skin. The larvae multiply and eventually migrate to the eyes, causing irreversible blindness. Currently, 120 million people are at risk of river blindness in the developing world.
Successful elimination of river blindness from Ecuador took the combined efforts of many partners internationally. Working together, these partners provided years of annual treatments of Mectizan® - which were donated by Merck - to infected areas to treat and prevent the disease. Among the partners involved in these efforts were Ecuador's Ministry of Health, the Pan American Health Organization, Merck, CBM, hundreds of thousands of people who have invested private support in the program, as well as many thousands of Ecuadorians who individually made 20+ year commitments to ridding themselves and their children of this disease.
CBM and its partners have been distributing Mectizan in Ecuador since 1990. In 2010, treatment was halted after transmission of onchocerciasis in the country was successfully stopped. At the end of the verification period, WHO Director - General Dr. Margaret Chan officially notified Ecuador this past week that the disease has successfully been eradicated within the country.
"CBM is proud to have been part of this wonderful achievement,'' says Dave McComiskey, President of CBM. ''We value highly our relationship with the Government of Ecuador, the WHO and the pharmacuetical company Merck. To be free of this disease, means a significant improvement in quality of life for people who were at risk."
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