Karachi – Poor sanitation leading to rise in Eye infection cases

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Patients infected with conjunctivitis an inflammation of the transparent membrane that lines the eyelid and eyeball ,continue to report at city’s public and private health facilities in large numbers more than a week after the disease turned into a major outbreak

Senior ophthalmologists linked the spread of the highly contagious eye disease to weather conditions that seemed to have worsened air quality, poor hand hygiene, crowded housing system and filthy conditions in the thickly populated city.

“We are still getting worryingly high numbers of patients that constitute almost half of the cases that report at our out-patient department,” shared Prof Nisar Ahmed Siyal, senior ophthalmologist and head of the department at Ojha Institute of Ophthalmology, part of the Dow University of Health Sciences (DUHS).

He said that the highly contagious disease seemed to have affected young adults and children more. “That’s perhaps because they have an increased frequency of social interaction and maintain poor hand hygiene.”

Experts say viral conjunctivitis leaves marks on cornea that may take longer time to heal

Similar observations were shared by experts running health facilities in other parts of Karachi, including Clifton and Saddar.

Leading ophthalmologist Dr Sharif Hashmani at Hashmanis Hospital said the flow of the patient was more or less the same in more than a week and that at least three to four cases of conjunctivitis were examined at one out-patient-clinic in a day.

“While the cases include both viral conjunctivitis as well as bacterial conjunctivitis, the number of the former is a bit higher,” he said.

The infections, Dr Hashmani said, caused similar symptoms, including eye redness, irritation, vision problem, eye discharge and crusting of eyelids or eyelashes especially in the morning. The patient might take one to two weeks to recover.

“A viral conjunctivitis leaves marks on the cornea that may take longer time for healing,” he observed.

Explaining the link between weather and the infection, Dr Aziz Arian, the head of the ophthalmology department at the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JPMC), said that the germs couldn’t survive very hot and very cold weather and thrived in highly humid conditions.

“This year, we have had less rainfall that has worsened air quality in the city that usually has two outbreaks of the infection, often occurring at the time of changing weather conditions,” he said.

He, however, believed that the situation with respect to conjunctivitis was now improving in the city as people were gradually developing immunity against the illness.

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