SAS Seminar Discusses River Blindness

SAS Seminar Discusses River Blindness

Fifty million Nigerians are at risk of river blindness (Onchocerciasis), one of the nation's neglected tropical diseases (NTDs).

This estimate was given recently at a research seminar at AUN, where NTDs came under focus.

The Adamawa State NTDs Coordinator, Peter Teru Bazza, who led the discourse at the School of Arts & Sciences Seminar on September 26, 2019, said Nigeria has the highest prevalence of NTDs in Sub-Saharan Africa.

It was revealed at the seminar that Nigeria declined cooperation with other African countries which initially had combined to combat river blindness.

River blindness, caused by the black fly which breeds in fast-flowing oxygenated waters, is said to be prevalent all over Nigeria.

The disease is irreversible, making it most deadly.

This critical threat to public health has spurred Mr. Bazza’s team to significant progress in controlling the disease. They are now working hard towards eradication.

"We are on track for the elimination of Onchocerciasis by 2025 in Adamawa, Taraba, and 10 other states," he said.

The team's short-term plan is to complete Onchocerciasis elimination mapping before the end of 2020, scale up interventions to cover all eligible endemic local government areas and all at-risk populations.

Mr. Bazza detailed the blackfly’s life cycle, how it causes the disease and the various stages of transmission.

He also gave a detailed explanation and the background information on the project 'Onchocerciasis in Nigeria'.

Dr. Jennifer Vincent-Tyndall of the Natural & Environmental Science at AUN, said she invited students of the Global Health Course (BIO 250), which she teaches, to the seminar because it is relevant to what they learn in class.

Explaining why Nigeria excluded itself from the 11 African countries that cooperated to fight the disease in the early years, Mr. Bazza said as Nigeria had just discovered crude oil and her leaders then thought was rich enough and could do it alone without support.

Gwaha Madwatte, who researches with Dr. Vincent-Tyndall, said the seminar enlightened the students many of whom are looking at public health and global health as future careers.

"As the next generation of public health experts, we should go in with that mindset that there are social factors that affect public health."

AUN often invites professionals to speak at seminars such as this. It is a way to bridge the gap between theory and practice. Students and researchers alike benefit from the knowledge and experience of practitioners in the field.

Reported by Omorogbe Omorogiuwa