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- Onchocerciasis facts
- What is onchocerciasis?
- What causes onchocerciasis?
- What are onchocerciasis symptoms and signs?
- Is there an incubation period for onchocerciasis?
- How is onchocerciasis diagnosed?
- What is the treatment for onchocerciasis?
- What are risk factors for onchocerciasis?
- Can onchocerciasis be prevented?
- What is the prognosis of onchocerciasis?
What are risk factors for onchocerciasis?
Living in and visiting sub-Sahara Africa and the few other areas where the blackfly is endemic is a major risk factor for developing onchocerciasis. The disease usually occurs after repeated exposures to blackfly bites so short-term travelers through these areas pose little risk; however, missionaries, volunteer health workers, and others who may spend a few months in the areas have an increased risk of infection.
Can onchocerciasis be prevented?
Currently, there is no drug or vaccine available that prevents onchocerciasis. However, preventing blackfly bites by avoiding areas where they are endemic can prevent infections. Other measures such as personal protection against blackfly bites and other biting insects (for example, insect repellent, pants tucked in boots, long-sleeved shirts) may reduce the chances of infection. Permethrin, an insect repellent, can be impregnated into cloth (shirts, pants, netting) and offers additional protection against blackfly bites
What is the prognosis of onchocerciasis?
The prognosis (outcome) depends on how quickly the infection is recognized and treated. The prognosis is good if the disease is adequately treated and the patient makes their follow-up appointments and treatments. However, if the diagnosis and treatment is accomplished late in the disease, the prognosis may be fair to poor because the patient may develop significant skin alterations, visual problems, or complete blindness.
Medically reviewed by Robert Cox, MD; American Board of Internal Medicine with subspecialty in Infectious Disease