Health News of Sunday, 25 May 2014


Wassa East under threat from river blindness

The fear of Onchocerciasis commonly known as river blindness is bringing anxiety to residents and leaders in the Wassa East District of the Western Region.

The communities which are mainly those along the already polluted Pra River as a result of illegal mining are witnessing the increase in the numbers of the blackflies which causes the disease.

There are reports that school children are those greatly affected as these insects feed on open skins.

In an interview with Citi News, the Wassa East District Disease control officer, Dennis Juben disclosed that, though the blackflies are seen in their numbers, drugs needed to be administered to infected persons are in short supply at the district and regional levels.

“We’ve even contacted the nearby district to see if we can get this ivermectin to be distributed to the various communities. But the unfortunate thing is that we don’t have the ivermectin in the system and the quantities that we have is not enough. So we started with the most severe communities…. We called the regional level to let them know of the presence of the blackflies so that if they can get us the ivermectcin so we can distribute them but unfortunately the drugs are not available at the region”. Mr. Juben lamented.

He indicated that communities such as “Sekyere Hemang, Abrodzewom, Sekyere Krobo, [mostly farming communities] and all communities along the Pra River are all witnessing the flies.

Sources say, the insects which are witnessed yearly especially during the major raining seasons leaves some members of the public blind.

The disease is transmitted to humans through exposure to repeated bites of infected blackflies. Symptoms include severe itching, disfiguring skin conditions and visual impairment, including permanent blindness.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 99% of infected people live in 31 African countries including Ghana.