Uganda Interrupts River Blindness Transmission in Nyamugasani


In short
According to the Uganda Onchocerciasis Elimination Expert Advisory Committee, Uganda will achieve her target of nationwide elimination of river blindness by 2020.

The transmission of river blindness in Nyamugasani river blindness focus area in Kasese district has been interrupted, according to the Uganda Onchocerciasis Elimination Expert Advisory Committee-UOEEAC.
Dr. Moses Katabarwa, a senior epidemiologist with the Carter Center Uganda says Nyamugasani becomes the 10th focus areas in Uganda when transmission has been interrupted. There are 17 focus areas in Uganda.

He says this implies that a population of about 11,500 people in Nyamugasani has been protected from Onchocerciasis.

//Cue in: Nyamugasani focus...//
Cue out....of the disease.//

 According to the Uganda Onchocerciasis Elimination Expert Advisory Committee, Uganda will achieve her target of nationwide elimination of river blindness by 2020. 

The committee also notes that Mt. Elgon foci (Mbale, Manafwa, Bududa, Sironko), Imaramagambo (Mitooma, Bushenyi) and Itwara (Kabarole, Kyenjojo) successfully completed post-treatment surveillance , a three-year monitoring period during which flies and blood samples from the formerly endemic areas are tested for evidence of River Blindness. 

After three consecutive years with no sign of infection, final tests were conducted and analyzed. Dr. Moses Katabarwa says the results were discussed at the UOEEAC which concluded that post-treatment surveillance was successful, and that the three areas are eligible for final evaluation.

//Cue in: And the results...//
Cue out....Nile focus.//
Six other foci, Mpamba-Nkusi (Kibaale), Kashoya-Kitomi (Kamwenge,Ibanda, Rubirizi, Buhweju) Wambabya-Rwamarongo (Hoima), Obongi (Moyo), Maracha-Terego (Maracha) , and Wadelai (Nebbi) are currently in their post- treatment surveillance periods.

According to Katabarwa it is likely that next year, after three consecutive years with no evidence of river blindness, they too will be declared free of the disease and will undertake final evaluation.

However, the Uganda Onchocerciasis Elimination Expert Advisory Committee also notes that transmission of River Blindness is still ongoing in only two of Uganda's original 17 focus areas. 

These are the Madi-Mid North focus and that is the districts of Pader, Lamwo, Kitgum, Gulu, Amuru, Nwoya, Oyam, Lira, Adjumani and Moyo of northern Uganda, and Lhubiriha in the Kasese District of western Uganda. 

Uganda and Sudan are the first nations in Africa to successfully approach the elimination of River Blindness with programs that primarily rely upon health education. Dr. Katabarwa says that Ministry of Health is now turning its attention to endemic areas bordering the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). 

He added that due to lack of information on the DRC areas bordering Uganda, mass drug administration continues in West Nile (Arua, Koboko, Yumbe), Nyagak-Bondo (Nebbi, Zombo), Lubiriha (Kasese) and Bwindi focus (Kanungu, Kisoro) areas.

River blindness which is known scientifically as onchocerciasis is a parasitic infection that can cause intense itching, skin discoloration, rashes, and eye disease that can lead to permanent blindness.

It is transmitted through bites of female black flies that breed in fast-flowing streams and rivers, hence the commonly known name of 'river blindness'.
The disease causes severe itching and painful nodules around the hip and rib cage, and eye lesions which can lead to impaired vision and blindness. It also causes ugly skin disease looking like leopard skin.


About the author

Beatrice Nyangoma
Beatrice Nyangoma values her independence as a journalist. This was one of her major considerations before she became a URN staffer in 2015.

Nyangoma says, "I like URN because it gives me room to decide what stories I want to work on. That is so important to me."

The URN Jinja bureau chief since July 2016, Nyangoma considers health matters a beat close to her heart. One of the highlights of her career so far were her exclusive interviews unveiling the rot in Mulago hospital in early 2016.

Nyangoma started out writing for the Red Pepper newspaper in 2011 in her final year of university. She was majorly a health reporter. In 2012, Nyangoma moved to Top Television as a health, business reporter and weekend news editor. She was also the assistant editorial manager of Kabarole Research and Resource Centre FM (KRC FM).