GREAT BAY, Sint Maarten (DCOMM) – The Collective Prevention Services (CPS), has been in contact with family doctors about notifying the CPS surveillance system if they come across cases of conjunctivitis, also known as ‘red eye’ or ‘pink eye.’
The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) has issued an epidemiological update after five countries and territories of the Americas have reported outbreaks of conjunctivitis. These are the Dominican Republic, Guadeloupe, Martinique, The Bahamas and Brazil.
Outbreaks of conjunctivitis in other countries of the Region are under investigation according to PAHO.
CPS, a department of the Ministry of Public Health, Social Development and Labour, has followed suit with respect to PAHO’s recommendation: “In light of the increased transmission of conjunctivitis in some countries and territories of the Region, the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) encourages Member States to strengthen surveillance and implement control measures to prevent the spread of the disease.”
The most common causes of conjunctivitis are viruses, bacteria, irritants and allergens. The virus and bacteria are very contagious. In Guadeloupe where laboratory tests were performed on a set of samples from suspected cases, they were positive for enteroviruses. Conjunctivitis bacteria is a leading cause of children being absent from daycare or school.
Symptoms of conjunctivitis can include: pink or red color in the white of the eye(s); swelling of the thin layer that lines the white part of the eye and the inside of the eyelid; increased tear production; feeling like a foreign body in the eye (s) or an urge to rub the eye (s); itching; irritation, and/or burning; discharge (pus or mucas); crusting of eyelids or lashes. Conjunctivitis is also one of the symptoms of Zika mosquito-borne disease.
Conjunctivitis can spread easily from person to person. You can greatly reduce the risk of getting conjunctivitis or spreading it to someone else by following some simple good hygiene steps.
If you have conjunctivitis, you can help limit its spread to other people by following these steps: wash your hands often with soap and warm water; wash them especially well before and after cleaning or applying eye drops or ointment to your infected eye; if soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
Avoid touching or rubbing your eyes; wash pillows, sheets, washcloths, and towels often in hot water and detergent; wash your hands after handling such items.
Do not share personal items, such as pillows, washcloths, towels, eye drops, eye make-up, or eye glasses; do not use swimming pools.
If you are diagnosed with bacterial or viral conjunctivitis (aka Red eye, Pink eye), limit your contact with other individuals until you are better; keep your child home from school or daycare until he/she is no longer contagious.
It’s usually safe to return to school or work when symptoms have been resolved. To minimize the risk of transmission, it is important to practice good hygiene.
If symptoms persist, you should contact your family physician who can then refer you to an eye specialist.
For additional information you can contact CPS at: 542-2078 or 542-3003.