Kenya and Tanzania are grappling with a surge in Conjunctivitis cases, more commonly known as the “red eye” disease, prompting health authorities to issue a high alert.
The coastal region has become the epicenter of the outbreak, with Mombasa alone reporting over 1,000 cases since last week. The contagious nature of the disease has raised concerns, especially as it appears to be rapidly spreading beyond its initial location.
In neighbouring Tanzania, the disease is reported to have spread across 17 regions including the Coast, Morogoro and Dodoma with nearly 6000 cases. In Dar es Salaam, The Citizen reports that red eye cases shot up from 869 to over 5,800 in record two weeks.
The coastal region has been hit the hardest, leading to stringent containment measures. Authorities have urged parents to keep school-going children at home if they exhibit any symptoms to prevent further transmission.
Circulars have been issued to public places of worship and gatherings, emphasizing the importance of observing health measures to curb infections. Speculation arises about the actual numbers, with many cases possibly going unreported.
Beyond the Coast: Spreading Horizons
While the coastal region is the hotspot, red eye cases have emerged in other parts of the country. Nairobi and Kisii have reported cases, indicating the swift and contagious nature of the disease’s spread.
The geographical shift highlightss the potential for a nationwide health crisis if not promptly addressed.
Understanding Red Eye Disease
Conjunctivitis, commonly known as “red” or “pink” eye, is an eye condition caused by the inflammation of the conjunctiva—the transparent membrane covering the eyelid and eyeball.
The inflammation leads to swelling of small blood vessels, resulting in the characteristic red or pink appearance of the eyes.
Causes and Symptoms
Various factors can cause Conjunctivitis, with Adenoviruses being a common cause. Other agents include bacteria, viruses like the Rubeola virus (causing measles), allergens, contact lens use, certain chemicals, fungi, and specific diseases.
Symptoms include red or pinkish eyes, itching, increased tear production, and eye discharge (mucus or pus). Depending on the causal agent, additional symptoms resembling a cough or cold may manifest.
Mode of spread
Conjunctivitis is highly contagious and spreads through direct contact with infected eye secretions or contaminated surfaces. Touching one’s eyes after touching contaminated surfaces or hands facilitates transmission.
The virus, bacteria, or fungi causing the infection may also be present in an infected person’s respiratory or fecal discharges.
Curbing the spread
Acting Health Director General Patrick Amoth reassured the public, stating that Conjunctivitis is usually self-limiting and rarely causes long-term complications. While it spreads rapidly, it seldom affects vision and rarely leads to lasting eye issues.
Preventive measures include avoiding touching or rubbing the eyes, minimizing face-touching, and refraining from sharing personal items like towels, eye drops, or makeup.
As Kenya battles the red eye outbreak, the Ministry of Health emphasizes the importance of public cooperation in following health guidelines to contain the disease’s spread and minimize its impact on communities.