Several Caribbean countries have reported outbreaks of conjunctivitis at health facilities and medical practices.
“The Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) is currently monitoring the situation and we want to urge persons to take the necessary precautions to prevent and reduce the spread of this illness,” said Dr Virginia Asin-Oostburg, Director, Surveillance, Disease Prevention and Control.
Conjunctivitis refers to inflammation of the membrane covering the whites of the eyes and the inside of the eyelids. The congestion of blood vessels in this membrane gives rise to a reddened appearance and explains the more common names “red eye or pink eye”.
The most common causes of conjunctivitis are viruses, bacteria, and allergens. Viral and bacterial conjunctivitis are very contagious and can spread easily from person to person.
Eye symptoms can include:
- Redness; irritation; itchiness; production of excessive tears
- Clear or yellow discharge that may make the eyelids stick together, especially on mornings
- Swelling of the eye lids
The risk of getting conjunctivitis, or spreading it to someone else can be reduced. CARPHA wishes to advise the members of the public to practice some simple good, hygiene steps:
Avoid close contact with persons who are ill with conjunctival symptoms
Keep unwashed hands away from face and eyes
Wash your hands often with soap and warm water. Alternatively, you may use an alcohol based hand-sanitizer.
Avoid sharing personal items, such as pillows, washcloths, towels, eye drops, eye makeup, face makeup, makeup brushes, contact lenses and, contact lens containers, or eyeglasses.
Disinfect frequently-touched surfaces in common areas, (for example doorknobs, counter-tops in shared spaces).
If you are infected avoid using makeup and applicators, (for example brushes and sponges)
If you are infected, wash hands well before and after cleaning, or applying eye drops or ointment to, your infected eye.
Once the infection goes away, it is important to avoid re-infection:
Discard disposable contact lenses and cases that you used while your eyes were infected.
Extended wear lenses should also be discarded, or, at the least, sterilised as directed by your eye-care professional
It is advisable that your eyes are examined by an eyecare professional before beginning to use contact lenses again, after a bout of conjunctivitis
Clean eyeglasses and cases that you used while infected.
Further information on conjunctivitis can be obtained from your local health clinics or your general practitioner. (Caribbean Public Health Agency Press Release)