Onchocerciasis: Learn How to Protect Yourself from This Serious Disease

Onchocerciasis Learn

What is Onchocerciasis?

Onchocerciasis, also known as river blindness, is a serious parasitic disease caused by Onchocerca volvulus, a type of filarial worm. It is transmitted primarily through the bites of infected flies, but can be spread to humans through contact with contaminated soil or water. This disease affects primarily populations living in rural areas near rivers, where infected black flies tend to breed. In humans, onchocerciasis typically presents as a rash or itching skin, often accompanied by eye inflammation and, in rare cases, eye damage and even permanent blindness.

How to Protect Yourself from Onchocerciasis

Onchocerciasis is a serious disease and can be difficult to prevent due to its prevalence in some areas. However, there are steps you can take to minimize your risk of contracting the disease.

  • Wear long-sleeved clothing and long pants: The black fly responsible for transmitting onchocerciasis tends to bite during the day, so covering your skin is a key way to reduce your risk.
  • Use insect repellent: According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), insect repellents containing DEET can help prevent bites from infected flies.
  • Use door and window screens: Keeping doors and windows screened can help prevent flies from entering your home.
  • Avoid outdoors activities in areas known to have infected flies: Seek advice from local health authorities about areas where onchocerciasis-carrying flies are known to be present.
  • Undergo regular check-ups: Even when taking preventive measures, it is still important to be checked regularly by a healthcare provider for any signs of onchocerciasis.

Treatment of Onchocerciasis

If you do contract onchocerciasis, it is important to seek medical attention as soon as possible. Treatment with anti-parasitic medications can help reduce symptoms, prevent further damage, and slow the progression of the disease. Your doctor can also recommend lifestyle changes that may help reduce your risk of further infection.

For more severe cases of onchocerciasis, surgery may be necessary to reduce the risk of vision damage or blindness. If you believe you have been infected with Onchocerca volvulus, it is important to seek medical attention as soon as possible.


Onchocerciasis is a serious parasitic disease that can cause skin rash, eye inflammation, and in some cases blindness. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to reduce your risk of infection, including long-sleeved clothing, insect repellent, and avoiding infected areas. If you believe you have been infected, it is important to seek medical attention immediately. By taking the necessary precautions, you can greatly reduce your risk of contracting Onchocerciasis and maintaining your health.

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