Health ministry issues advisory

GIS:-Concern Mounts Over Possible Red Eye Outbreaks at Start of School Year.

In anticipation of the reopening of school next week Monday, health officials have advised parents and guardians to keep children suspected of having conjunctivitis/red eye at home.

Officials say that although infection rates have been receding, outbreaks are possible if infected children are sent to school.

“Currently there is a decrease in the number of cases being reported, although the south of the island continues to report the highest numbers. However, with the reopening of school next week it is possible that small outbreaks may occur in schools if children with the disease are sent to school.

“Persons suspected of having conjunctivitis may experience eye symptoms such as redness, irritation, itchiness, the production of excessive tears, clear or yellow discharge that may seal eyelids shut especially on mornings, and swelling of the eyelids,” officials stated.

The Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) confirmed the presence of enterovirus in the viral swabs taken from the eye secretions of infected persons in Saint Lucia. The most common causes of conjunctivitis are viruses and bacteria. Viral and bacterial conjunctivitis are very contagious and can spread easily from person to person.

In order to reduce the risk of contracting or transmitting the virus, the Ministry of Health advises members of the public to avoid close contact with persons who are ill with conjunctival symptoms; avoid touching eyes/face with dirty hands; wash hands often with soap and water (if soap and water are not available, use an alcohol based hand-sanitizer); and 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.

The public should also disinfect frequently-touched surfaces in common areas such as doorknobs and counter-tops.

If a person becomes infected, he or she should avoid using makeup and applicators, (for example brushes and sponges), and wash hands well before and after cleaning the infected eye. Once the infection goes away it is important to avoid re-infection. Get rid of disposable contact lenses and cases that you used while your eyes were infected.

The management of conjunctivitis consists of symptomatic treatment, as there is no recommended treatment for viral conjunctivitis. The infection is expected to run its course of 5-7 days. Steroid eye drops should not be used as they can cause further damage to the eye.

For information contact the Bureau of Health Education at 758.468.5349.

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