Fighting Disease: Venezuela
Eliminating River Blindness From the Americas
In 2000, Venezuela had three onchocerciasis-endemic areas (North-Central, Northeast, and South) and became the last of the six original endemic countries to begin mass drug administration as part of a Carter-Center sponsored effort to eliminate the disease from the Western Hemisphere. With health education and twice-per-year treatment with Mectizan® (ivermectin, donated by Merck) to at least 85 percent of the approximately 98,500 people at risk for the disease nationwide, two areas, North-Central and Northeast have stopped river blindness transmission.
Today, the only remaining endemic area in Venezuela is along a remote and difficult-to-access southern area of the country, bordering Brazil. The migratory Yanomami people living along this border are exposed to the disease as they travel throughout the Amazon rain forest. Special ongoing efforts are made to provide the Yanomami with the medicine and health education they need to help preserve their sight.
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Onchocerciasis life cycle poster used for health education among the nomadic Yanomami population living in Brazil and Venezuela. The Yanomami are severely affected by river blindness because their travel throughout the Amazon rain forest places them at continuous risk for exposure to the disease.