An outbreak of viral conjunctivitis – pink eye – a highly infectious disease, has prompted the Public Health Department to issue an advisory to keep the public informed and what they can do to prevent the spread of this disease.
HSA Consultant Ophthalmologist Dr. Jyotin Pandit says conjunctivitis caused by a group of Adenoviruses is endemic in the Cayman Islands and flares up sporadically into an epidemic.
‘It seems that we may be entering such a period, as the number of reported cases per week has increased significantly above the norm’ says Mr. Pandit.
Infection can be passed on by droplet exposure, such as through coughs and sneezes and by direct contact with secretions such as tear fluid and mucus discharge.
Usually a work colleague or a family member may have had a cough, cold, sore throat or even diarrhoea and vomiting, as all of these may be caused by the same virus.
Within three to five days of contact, one or both eyes of a newly infected individual may become red, sore and gritty.
There may be a mucus discharge that makes the eyelids stick together in the morning.
The eyelids may also become swollen.
Frequently there may be mild non-tender swelling of the lymph glands in front of the ear or underneath the jaw line.
Typically the other eye becomes involved as well, but not always.
Occasionally there may be a subconjunctival haemorrhage on the surface of the eye, which may appear suddenly, causing anxiety.
It is completely harmless and will disappear over a few weeks.
Very rarely, the surface of the eye (cornea) may also be inflamed, causing some photophobia and glare.
According to Mr. Pandit the younger the person the quicker the recovery, ‘so children typically improve within three to four days, but adults can be unwell for up to two weeks. Usually the person is infectious for up to one week, so children should stay away from school and adults should stay away from work for one week. Personal items such as towels and toys should not be shared, as they can transmit the infection.’
The disease is self-limiting, meaning it gets better on its own with time.
There is no treatment to cure the disease but if something is desired for palliation then Voltaren eye drops three times a day reduce the symptoms and redness. These may be obtained via your doctor.
For more information, contact the Public Health Department on 244-2648 or Lion’s Eye Clinic on 244-2318 or your own doctor.