Cameroon’s National Neglected Tropical Disease (NTD) Program has set the goal of eliminating trachoma, the leading cause of infectious blindness, within its borders by 2020.
Trachoma is caused by a bacterial infection of the eye. The bacteria are transmitted through person to person contact and can also be spread by eye-seeking flies. The infection causes inflammation, which, if it persists over time, can cause the eyelashes to turn inward and scrape the surface of the eye. If left untreated, this condition can eventually lead to visual impairment and blindness.
In order to design a trachoma treatment program that has the best chance of meeting the country’s elimination goal, one must know which areas of the country are most affected by trachoma and where treatment is needed most. Information about the disease distribution is collected through “mapping,” a process used to collect specific data on populations to determine the burden of disease in a certain area of the country. Mapping of the Far North region of Cameroon was completed in 2010-11 and will be an invaluable resource in eliminating trachoma from this region. Results from the study were recently published in PLoS NTDs.
The mapping exercise in the Far North region found that 11% of children from 1 to 9 years of age were infected with trachoma. In 13 districts, the prevalence was high enough to warrant mass treatment with antibiotics at the district level. The National NTD Program estimates that approximately 1.7 million people in this region need to be treated with antibiotics annually for at least three years. There are an estimated 17,000 cases of advanced trachoma (trichiasis) in the region, meaning at least 17,000 people need immediate surgery to preserve their sight. Insight gained from this mapping exercise has allowed Cameroon’s National NTD Program to tailor its program to focus on key zones and utilize resources efficiently to treat as many people as possible.
The completion of mapping in the Far North region of Cameroon is a key step along the country’s path to eliminating trachoma. While treating almost 2 million people for three years is still no easy task, mapping has allowed Cameroon to clearly see the path needed to create an effective treatment program. With continued effort by the National NTD Program, supported by USAID’s ENVISION project, Cameroon can reach its goal of eliminating trachoma within the country by 2020.
For more information on ENVISION supported activities in Cameroon, go to Cameroon Country page.