|Experts to analyze progress toward elimination of trachoma, the world’s leading infectious cause of blindness|
Washington, D.C., 11 May 2012 (PAHO/WHO) — More than 2.2 million people in 53 countries around the world suffer visual impairment, and 1.2 million are permanently blind as a result of trachoma, an infectious disease that primarily affects people living in poor rural areas.
A group of experts working to eliminate the disease by 2020 will meet on May 14–16 at the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) in Washington, D.C., to evaluate recent progress toward trachoma elimination and to determine next steps to achieve this goal. It is the 16th annual meeting of the WHO Alliance for Global Elimination of Blinding Trachoma by 2020 (GET 2020) and the first time the meeting has taken place in the Americas
Gallery of photos of the meeting
Situation in the Americas
Health officials from the Americas made trachoma elimination a priority and set the goal of eliminating cases of blindness caused by the disease by 2015 at the 49th PAHO Directing Council in 2009. In May 2011, the first regional meeting of trachoma program managers in the Americas was held to analyze progress toward elimination and to develop lines of action in the region’s four affected countries. It was followed by a second meeting in Guatemala in April 2012.
Launched under WHO’s leadership in 1997, the GET 2020 Alliance works to eliminate trachoma as a public health problem through resource mobilization and partnerships between countries, nongovernmental organizations, and the private sector.
Trachoma is caused by the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis. Principal risk factors are related to water shortages, flies, and living conditions characterized by poor hygiene and crowding. In endemic areas, active disease is common in children.
Infection often begins during infancy or childhood and can become chronic. If left untreated, the infection eventually causes the eyelid to turn inwards, which in turn causes the eyelashes to rub on the eyeball, resulting in intense pain and scarring of the front of the eye. This ultimately leads to irreversible blindness, typically between 30 and 40 years of age.
PAHO, which celebrates its 110th anniversary this year, is the oldest public health organization in the world. It works with its member countries to improve the health and the quality of life of the people of the Americas. It also serves as the Regional Office for the Americas of WHO.
For more information about the meeting visit: http://www.paho.org/hq/
For live coverage of the meeting visit: http://www.livestream.com/paho
Leticia Linn, Tel. + 202 974 3440, Mobile +1 202 701 4005, Donna Eberwine-Villagran, Tel. +1 202 974 3122, Mobile +1 202 316 5469, Sonia Mey-Schmidt, Tel. + 1 202 974 3036, Mobile +1 202 251 2646, Knowledge Management and Communications, PAHO/WHO.
Regional Office for the Americas of the World Health Organization