River Blindness

23 Mar

Since March 22 was World Water Day, it might be “illuminating” to talk about eye diseases and water. It is true that the most common and fatal waterborne diseases (caused by unsanitary water), don’t affect the eyes: These include infant diarrhea, cryptosporidium, cholera, dysentery, typhoid, and many more. However, there is a disease called “onchocerciasis” or “river blindness,” that is also considered “waterborne,” and is the world’s #2 cause of blindness.

Actually, the disease is caused by the bite of a black fly, which introduces a “nematode” or microscopic worm into the human bloodstream. The worm reproduces and blindness results. Get rid of the black flies, which love stagnant and polluted water, and you get rid of a major vector in the nematode’s lifecycle. If caught early, the disease is easily curable.

All this underscores the importance of World Water Day. Of the world’s 6.8 billion people, 2.6 billion lack basic sanitary facilities such as toilets, and running water to wash their hands after they go to the bathroom. To learn more, visit the website of Life Water International.

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