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JUST IN: 48m Nigerians at risk of river blindness – Expert

River blindness

An Ophthalmologist, Dr. Valentina Ideh, has raised the alarm that about 40 million Nigerians are at risk of contracting river blindness (Onchocerca volvulus) in the country.

Dr Ideh, who lectures at the National Postgraduate Medical College of Nigeria, stated this in Benin during the 20th Faculty Lecture with the theme: Vision 2020 in Nigeria: Myth or Reality.

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“Onchocerciasis is perhaps, the most studied filarial infection in Nigeria. The provisional estimates had suggested that 7-10 million Nigerians are infected with Onchocerca volvulus, approximately 40 million are at risk of the disease”, she said.

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She said according to the Global Burden of Disease Study estimate in 2017, there were 20.9 million prevalent Onchocerciasis volvulus infections worldwide, adding that 14.6 million of the infected people had skin disease while 1.15 million had vision loss.

Dr. Ideh explained that the disease is a severe public health problem responsible for blindness and visual impairment, debilitating skin disease and relentless itching in millions of people.

She identified Glaucoma and cataract as other leading causes of blindness in the world, calling for adequate funding of the health sector.

Dr. Ideh however, called on the federal government to upgrade its ophthalmology department in all Teaching Hospitals and integrate the Primary Eye Care (PEC) into Primary Health Care (PHC) initiative across the 36 states of the federation.

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