Fighting Disease: Brazil
Eliminating Onchocerciasis From the Americas
River blindness is a parasitic disease transmitted by the bite of small black flies that breed in rapidly flowing streams and rivers. The disease causes severe itching, eye damage, and often blindness but is preventable through health education and distribution of the medicine Mectizan®. Learn more about the Carter Center's campaign to eliminate river blindness from the Americas and to control it in Africa >
Onchocerciasis, commonly known as river blindness, is found in two states in Brazil — Amazonas and Roraima — and affects approximately 9,000 Brazilians.
The endemic areas that border Venezuela are among the hardest to access due to their extremely remote locations. Sometimes even boats or rafts, which are the most common form of transportation to reach program areas, can be unsuitable for the terrain. To provide health education and medicine in these isolated communities, short-term consultants frequently have had to hire helicopters, donkeys, and guides.
One of Brazil's most at-risk populations, and among the most difficult to reach, 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 need at that time, as the eligible population of 4,500 required twice-yearly Mectizan treatments to prevent the onset of permanent blindness.
Since then, with support from The Carter Center, intervention efforts have grown. In 2011, Brazil provided more than 8,000 treatments and surpassed the 85 percent treatment coverage goal for the 11th consecutive year.
With continued hard work against onchocerciasis, endemic communities in Brazil will experience a tremendous difference in their quality of life and build a healthier future for all.