Fighting Disease: Brazil
Eliminating Onchocerciasis From the Americas
Brazil's two states bordering Venezuela Amazonas and Roraima—are the last active transmission zones for onchocerciasis in the Americas affecting nearly 13,000 people. Home to the migratory Yanomami population, an indigenous group who routinely move across the border from Brazil into Venezuela, this area is the only one still under treatment because it is among the hardest to reach and most remote endemic locations in the Americas.
Sometimes even boats or rafts, the most common forms of transportation to reach program areas, can be unsuitable for the terrain. Short-term consultants frequently have to hire helicopters, donkeys, and guides to provide health education and medicine in these isolated communities. One of the most at-risk and difficult-to-reach populations is the migratory Yanomami people, an indigenous group who routinely move across the border from Brazil into Venezuela.
When the program began in 1996, Brazil administered only 1,276 Mectizan® treatments (donated by Merck). This number was vastly short of the amount needed to treat the eligible population of 4,500 twice-yearly to prevent the onset of permanent blindness. Between 2001 and 2012, the Brazilian program administered 24 semiannual treatments reaching at least 85 percent coverage. Quarterly treatments now are being provided to 10 areas, with the latest surveys showing Brazil is close to suppressing onchocerciasis transmission in its shared part of the endemic focus.