River Blindness: Medical Experts Conduct Vaccination In Kaduna, Reports Of New Cases Untrue

Sightsavers has been working with the Kaduna State Ministry of Health, the Federal Ministry of Health, National Eye Centre and Nigerian Institute of Trypanosomiasis and Onchocerciasis to investigate the validity of online news media reports on 22 July  2016 in Africa Prime News and Nigerian Pilot claiming ’Hundreds at risk of contracting River Blindness in Kajuru LGA of Kaduna State.’’ http://www.africaprimenews.com/2016/07/investigation-hundreds-at-risk-of-contracting-river-blindness-in-kaduna/

Sightsavers has been operating a river blindness (onchocerciasis) drug distribution programme and assessment programme in the area since 1996 to reduce the number of people contracting river blindness and also monitor the occurrence of new cases.

Following the publication of the reports a survey covering epidemiological, entomological and ophthalmological investigations was conducted to assess the claims of the media stories, and they were found to be untrue

Teams of surveyors used standard methodologies such as Rapid Assessment of Blindness (RAAB) examinations and skin snip samples to check communities for the disease. Surveyors also carried out a search for black flies, the vector of the disease, and their larvae along river banks in the communities and laboratory examinations of the flies for presence of Onchocerca volvulus, the causative agent of the disease.

The results of the survey showed an absence of adult black fly in the communities and the analysis of the skin snip tests were negative for the disease, proving that there is not a presence of river blindness in these communities. The ophthalmological investigation showed a blindness prevalence of 2.5%. It was found that three of the eight blind people were blind as a result of optic atrophy attributable to river blindness, but all three people were above 50 years of age, thereby indicating that these are not new cases of river blindness.

The absence of infected black fly as well microfilaria in the population disproves the possibility of active disease transmission. The result of the survey therefore invalidates claims made in the media stories about the possibility of fresh infection in the population or a possible outbreak of the disease.