Lion help Hault the Transmission of River Blindness

Ecuador has become the second nation in the Americas to halt the transmission of onchocerciasis, according to a press release from the Carter Center, the Atlanta-based sponsoring agency for the Onchocerciasis Elimination Program in the Americas.

The Onchocerciasis Elimination Program in the Americas is a community-based partnership that includes volunteers in the endemic countries of Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico and Venezuela and has the support of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Pan American Health Organization, the Pan American Health and Education Foundation, Merck, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Lions Clubs International Foundation, the release said.

Acting under a resolution by the Pan American Health Organization, the program has sought to end transmission of river blindness in these six endemic countries by 2012 through health education and the semiannual mass distribution of the anti-parasite drug Mectizan (ivermectin, Merck).

The Ministry of Health has been providing ivermectin to patients in the northern part of Ecuador’s Esmeraldas Province since 1990. In 2008, 27,372 ivermectin treatments were administered to more than 16,000 people there, after which epidemiological studies showed that the transmission of the parasite had been stalled.

Colombia was the first of the six nations to break the transmission of onchocerciasis in 2008.

“With only four countries remaining endemic, it’s critical that elimination efforts and health education are intensified elsewhere in the Americas to reach the regional goal and to avoid future suffering,” Frank O. Richards Jr., MD, director of the Carter Center’s River Blindness Program, said in the release.

In order for the World Health Organization to confirm that the parasite has been eliminated, a 3-year surveillance phase will begin in Ecuador this year to ensure that infection does not reoccur in the absence of ivermectin distribution.

Milestone Toward Ending River Blindness In The Western Hemisphere By 2012

ScienceDaily (Apr. 7, 2009) — An international team of researchers led by Rodrigo Gonzalez of the Universidad del Valle de Guatemala reports that the transmission of onchocerciasis or river blindness has been broken in Escuintla, Guatemala, one of the largest endemic areas in the Western Hemisphere to date to stop the transmission of the parasitic disease.

The findings detail the lack of ocular lesions and the absence of infections in school children as well as in the black fly which spreads the disease. Escuintla is now the second of four Guatemalan areas to have stopped the transmission of river blindness.

“In a few short years—with continued hard work and increased political will—river blindness will never threaten the Americas again,” said co-author Frank Richards, MD, of the Carter Center’s River Blindness Program. “Ending transmission in Escuintla is an important victory in the campaign to eliminate this devastating disease.”

To date eight of 13 endemic study areas in Latin America have ended the transmission of the disease, largely through health education and semiannual mass distribution of ivermectin—also known as Mectizan® donated by Merck & Co., Inc.

Ivermectin had been given to 85 percent of the at-risk Escuintla population of 50,000 since 2001 by the Guatemala Ministry of Public Health and Social Assistance (MPHSA). In 2007, the MPHSA, together with the Onchocerciasis Elimination Program for the Americas (OEPA), The Carter Center, the CDC and the Universidad del Valle de Guatemala launched an evaluation in Escuintla to determine whether transmission had been interrupted and if semiannual treatment could be suspended, following guidelines of the World Health Organization (WHO). This evaluation led to the recommendation that treatment could be halted. Escuintla has now begun a three-year surveillance phase to ensure that infection does not reoccur in the absence of ivermectin distribution.

Onchocerciasis, caused by a filarial roundworm Onchocerca volvulus is transmitted to humans by the bite of an infected black fly. The parasite causes eye damage that can lead to blindness and skin disease. Acting under a resolution by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), the OEPA, seeks to stop transmission of O. volvulus throughout the endemic countries of Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico, and Venezuela by 2012. With one endemic focus, Colombia became the first country in the region to interrupt river blindness transmission in 2007. The Carter Center is the sponsoring agency for the Guatemala-based OEPA, whose partnership includes the six endemic countries, CDC, PAHO, Merck, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Lions Clubs Foundation International.

River blindness under control in Escuintla, Guatemala

An international team of researchers led by Rodrigo Gonzalez of the Universidad del Valle de Guatemala reports that the transmission of onchocerciasis or river blindness has been broken in Escuintla, Guatemala, one of the largest endemic areas in the Western Hemisphere to date to stop the transmission of the parasitic disease.

The findings, which detail the lack of ocular lesions and the absence of infections in school children as well as in the black fly which spreads the disease, are published March 31st in the open-access journal PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases. Escuintla is now the second of four Guatemalan areas to have stopped the transmission of river blindness.

“In a few short years-with continued hard work and increased political will-river blindness will never threaten the Americas again,” said co-author Frank Richards, MD, of the Carter Center’s River Blindness Program. “Ending transmission in Escuintla is an important victory in the campaign to eliminate this devastating disease.”

To date eight of 13 endemic study areas in Latin America have ended the transmission of the disease, largely through health education and semiannual mass distribution of ivermectin-also known as Mectizan? donated by Merck & Co., Inc.

Ivermectin had been given to 85 percent of the at-risk Escuintla population of 50,000 since 2001 by the Guatemala Ministry of Public Health and Social Assistance (MPHSA). In 2007, the MPHSA, together with the Onchocerciasis Elimination Program for the Americas (OEPA), The Carter Center, the CDC and the Universidad del Valle de Guatemala launched an evaluation in Escuintla to determine whether transmission had been interrupted and if semiannual treatment could be suspended, following guidelines of the World Health Organization (WHO). This evaluation led to the recommendation that treatment could be halted. Escuintla has now begun a three-year surveillance phase to ensure that infection does not reoccur in the absence of ivermectin distribution.

Onchocerciasis, caused by a filarial roundworm Onchocerca volvulus is transmitted to humans by the bite of an infected black fly. The parasite causes eye damage that can lead to blindness and skin disease. Acting under a resolution by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), the OEPA, seeks to stop transmission of O. volvulus throughout the endemic countries of Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico, and Venezuela by 2012. With one endemic focus, Colombia became the first country in the region to interrupt river blindness transmission in 2007. The Carter Center is the sponsoring agency for the Guatemala-based OEPA, whose partnership includes the six endemic countries, CDC, PAHO, Merck, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Lions Clubs Foundation International.

http://www.plos.org/

Lions Quarterly Video Magazine – January, 2009

In this LQ see how Lions in South Africa feed hungry children while teaching them how to clean up their community, take a peek at what goes on behind the scenes of an eyeglass mission in Mexico, and travel with Japanese Lions as they bring the gift of two very-needed fire engines to Cambodia. Also, see why you should make your plans now for the 2009 international convention in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA.Lions Quarterly Video Magazine – January, 2009

Lions Club makes eyeglass donations fast and easy

by Suzanne Sproul, Staff Writer

Lions Recycle For SightUpland Host Lions Club members believe in helping others to see. That’s the same belief that has driven the international nonprofit for decades. For local supporters, the task has gotten a bit easier.

The group purchased an old mail box, painted it the traditional Lions gold and now, thanks to Upland City Manager Robb Quincey, the box now sits next to the ATM machine in the parking lot adjacent to the City Hall and Public Library.

Now, when you pay your bills, grab some quick cash or return books, you can also help in the campaign to help less-fortunate individuals see the world around them.

The mailbox is a depository for recycling old, but still useful, eyeglasses. The more-public presence also was aided when an anonymous individual recently donated $500 toward the purchase of glasses. Hal Tanner, longtime Lions member, said having the mailbox in such a prominent place has increased donations tenfold.

“We collect eyeglasses all year round, but we like the idea of having a central place for people to drop them off. As generations age and new generations come up, people may not be aware of how and why Lions members collect glasses. We want them to know,” said Sheila Casteel, Upland Host Lions Club president.

“Used frames and lenses are checked out and then recycled in a factory in Northern California. When Lions clubs and individuals organize missions to Mexico and Central America, the individuals take the glasses with them”

But the local organization wants to help young people in this community as well. One of its philanthropies is to provide and pay for eye exams and glasses, if needed, for any Upland student in need.

“We get referrals from school nurses who then let us know,” said Casteel, who is a registered nurse.

Although helping to provide the gift of sight is a primary group concern, the 37-member club also does various community outreach programs including sponsoring Cub and Boy Scout troops and a student speaker contest and giving money to the Upland Little League. The public speaking contest is set for early February.

“The contest is open to any high school student. We sponsor it locally on a club level and then it moves up to various divisions. The ultimate winner earns a wonderful college scholarship,” Casteel said.

“We believe this is a great way for young people to seek out money for higher education and to learn how to speak comfortably in public and to be able to present a logical argument. This year’s topic is, `Will California Be Left High and Dry?”‘

Despite recent rains, that topic remains relevant and will continue to haunt the state.

Casteel said she joined Lions because of her husband, Jon, who also is a member. But the community service aspect behind the club and its continued efforts to help young people and children has kept her energized.

“I like taking care of people, maybe that’s because I’m a nurse, but I also think you make time for the things that are important to you. We are very fortunate, so how can I not try and give to those who need. If we all try to do a little bit more, the world would be a better place,” she said.

So, if you’re cleaning out around the house in order to prepare for 2009 and you come across an old pair of glasses, recycle them and allow someone else to see some of the world they’ve been missing.