Gambia becomes 2nd African nation to eliminate trachoma, WHO says

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April 22 (UPI) — Health officials say that Gambia has become just the second African nation to eliminate the tropical eye disease trachoma, after years of identifying and treating patients in its most rural areas.

The World Health Organization made the declaration earlier this week.

In eradicating trachoma, Gambia joins Ghana as the only African countries that have done so. Ghana eliminated the disease in 2018.

It’s estimated that trachoma causes eye damage for about 2 million people worldwide, mainly children. It becomes less common as people age and long-term consequences can develop over years or decades. The WHO says women are four times more likely than men to be affected.

“This is a remarkable achievement that has saved children, mothers and families from preventable visual impairment or blindness, and improved their quality of life and well-being,” Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO’s regional director for Africa, said in a statement.

“It is also a clear sign that we can achieve significant milestones through dedicated efforts in tackling health challenges in the region.”

Trachoma can spread from person to person through contaminated fingers, fomites and flies that have come into contact with the eyes or nose of an infected person. Risk factors for transmission include poor hygiene, overcrowded households and lack of access to clean water.

The disease remains endemic in 27 countries in WHO’s African Region and a public health problem in 45 countries. The organization said there has been progress — as people requiring antibiotic treatment for trachoma in Africa declined by 72 million between 2014 and 2020.

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