The geographic distribution of onchocerciasis in the 20 participating countries of the African Programme for Onchocerciasis Control: (1) priority areas for ivermectin treatment.
BACKGROUND: The African Programme for Onchocerciasis Control (APOC) was created to control onchocerciasis as a public health problem in 20 African countries. Its main strategy is community directed treatment with ivermectin. In order to identify all high risk areas where ivermectin treatment was needed, APOC used Rapid Epidemiological Mapping of Onchocerciasis (REMO). REMO has now been virtually completed and we report the results in two articles. The present article reports the mapping of high risk areas where onchocerciasis was a public health problem. The companion article reports the results of a geostatistical analysis of the REMO data to map endemicity levels and estimate the number infected.
METHODS: REMO consists of three stages: exclusion of areas that are unsuitable for the vector, selection of sample villages to be surveyed in each river basin, and examination of 30 to 50 adults for the presence of palpable onchocercal nodules in each selected village. The survey results and other relevant information were processed in a geographical information system. A panel of experts interpreted the data taking the river-based sampling into account and delineated high risk areas where the prevalence of nodules is greater than 20%.
RESULTS: Unsuitable areas were identified in eight countries. In the remaining areas surveys were done in a total of 14,473 sample villages in which more than half a million people were examined. High-risk areas were identified in 18 APOC countries, ranging from small isolated foci to a vast contiguous endemic area of 2 million km2 running across seven countries. In five countries the high risk area covered more than 48% of the total surface area, and 31% to 48% of the population. It is estimated that 86 million people live in high risk areas in the APOC countries.
CONCLUSIONS: The REMO maps have played a significant role in onchocerciasis control in the 20 APOC countries. All high-risk areas where onchocerciasis used to be a serious public health problem have been clearly delineated. This led to the creation of community-directed treatment projects that by 2012 were providing annual ivermectin treatment to over 80 million people.