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Onchocerciasis (river blindness) is caused by the filarial parasite Onchocerca volvulus and is endemic in 6 countries of the Americas: Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico and Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of). The Onchocerciasis Elimination Program for the Americas (OEPA) is a regional initiative with the goals of eliminating ocular morbidity from onchocerciasis and interrupting transmission of the parasite throughout the region. The OEPA strategy is to strengthen ministries of health in the 6 endemic countries to provide sustained mass treatment every 6 months with the safe and effective oral microfilaricide ivermectin (Mectizan[R]), which is being donated by Merck & Co. National treatment programmes aim to reach at least 85% of all people eligible for treatment who reside in communities known to be endemic for onchocerciasis. The OEPA partnership includes the endemic countries, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), The Carter Center, Lions Clubs, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Merck & Co.
The fourteenth annual InterAmerican Conference on Onchocerciasis (IACO 2004) was held at The Carter Center in Atlanta, Georgia, United States, from 13 to 15 November 2004. The meeting was organized by OEPA and PAHO, with financial support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Lions Clubs SightFirst Program and Merck & Co. In addition to representatives from the 6 national programmes and the sponsoring agencies, the meeting was attended by representatives from the Mectizan[R] Donation Program, nongovernmental development organizations involved in ivermectin distribution in endemic areas, CDC and academic institutions. Former United States President Jimmy Carter attended the meeting on 15 November.
This report describes the treatment advances in the 6 endemic countries in 2004 that were reported at IACO, supplemented by reports received by OEPA since the meeting.
Treatment activities in 2004
The total number of people known to be eligible for treatment (the ultimate treatment goal (UTG)) was determined using the most recent information from censuses conducted in 2003 and 2004 in each endemic community. In communities that had not been visited recently, almost all of which were in southern Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of), the UTG was estimated. Since the OEPA aims to provide ivermectin treatment twice a year, treatment coverage for 2004 was calculated as the number of treatments delivered during the year divided by twice the UTG value (UTG(2)) and expressed as a percentage.
In 2004, 836,851 ivermectin treatments were delivered, 94.1% of the regional UTG(2) of 889,116. For the second consecutive year, all countries reported an ivermectin coverage …