Onchocerciasis mass drug administration begins in Ashanti

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A mass drug administration against onchocerciasis in nine selected districts in the Ashanti Region is beginning today, August 23, according to the Regional Health Directorate.

Over 500,000 people who are 90cm or above in height, except pregnant women, are estimated to receive the ivermectin medication during the exercise which ends on September 3.

Onchocerciasis is a parasitic tropical disease that affects the skin and eyes and spreads by repeated bites from infected black flies.

Commonly known as ‘river blindness, it is caused by the parasitic worm onchocerca volvulus with symptoms including severe itching, disfiguring skin conditions, and visual impairment.

The nine selected districts to benefit from the exercises are Ahafo-Ano North, Atwima Mponua, Ejura-Sekyedumase, Kumawu, Offinso North, Sekyere Central, Sekyere East, Sekyere Afram Plains, and Asante Mampong.

Mr. Solomon Boakye, the Regional Disease Control Officer told the Ghana News Agency (GNA) that onchocerciasis was one of the infectious causes of blindness worldwide, only second to trachoma in numbers of persons affected.

He said the exercise sought to interrupt the transmission of the disease, reduce morbidity and prevent disability in endemic districts, communities, and schools.

Ahead of the exercise, training for district and sub-district health teams had been held as part of activities to ensure successful implementation of the exercise, he noted.

Other key stakeholders engaged as part of the exercise are community leaders, Metropolitan, Municipal, and District Assemblies, and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) in health.

He appealed to eligible persons in the beneficiary districts to avail themselves of the drug to support the government’s efforts to eliminate the disease from Ghana.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the Global Burden of Disease Study estimated in 2017 that there were 20.9 million prevalent volvulus infections worldwide with 14.6 million of the infected people suffering from skin diseases and 1.15 million had vision loss.

It says community-directed treatment with ivermectin is the core strategy to eliminate onchocerciasis in Africa where over 99 percent of the infected people live.

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