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Pinkeye outbreak expected to hit new record

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Conjuntivitis is spreading rapidly in the region. Photo: Centro de Salud Tizimin

After being under control a few years back, pinkeye is rampant in Yucatán.

On average, 75.4 people a day are reporting to a medical office with a new case of conjunctivitis, as it is more properly known.

Statistics released by Ministry of Health reflect the seriousness of the problem: By Sept. 9, doctors confirmed 18,794 cases of pinkeye in Yucatan, compared to 15,511 in the same period last year.

Officials expect a record year.  In 2016, the official count was 20,409 patients; in 2015, there were 20,543.

Outbreaks were thought to have been under control. In 2014, doctors reported only 4,508 cases of conjunctivitis, as it is more properly known.

José Antonio Aguilar Pérez, an epidemiologist with the Mexican Social Security Institute (IMSS), says that the real numbers could reach twice what officials report because many people do not go to public authorities to receive care.

Authorities insist that this is an outbreak, not an epidemic, although more and more people are reporting pinkeye.

Pharmacies report a shortage of chloramphenicol ophthalmic, a drug that treats this condition.

Conjunctivitis is an inflammation of the conjunctiva, the thin clear tissue that lies over the white part of the eye and lines the inside of the eyelid. Symptoms include redness in the white of the eye or inner eyelid. Itching, a burning sensation and a green or white discharge from the eye is also possible.

Pinkeye can have three causes: virus, bacteria or allergy. Only in the latter case is not contagious. In the other two it is highly contagious, and the reason why outbreaks spread easily.

It is also triggered by irritants such as shampoos, dirt, smoke, and pool chlorine.

In babies, it is most serious and could result in permanently impaired vision.

There is no self-care procedure; anyone with pinkeye should report immediately to a medical clinic.

What happens at the doctor’s office depends on how conjunctivitis was contracted.

A doctor conducting an eye exam may use a cotton swab to take a lab sample of fluid from the eyelid. Bacteria or viruses, including those that can cause a sexually transmitted disease, can then be identified.

Pinkeye caused by bacteria, including those related to STDs, is treated with antibiotic eye drops, ointments, or pills. Eye drops or ointments may need to be applied to the inside of the eyelid three to four times a day for five to seven days. Pills may need to be taken for several days. The infection would be expected to clear up within a week.

If pinkeye is associated with a common-cold virus, the situation must run its course along with the cold in four to seven days.

But viral conjunctivitis can be highly contagious, so doctors tell patients to avoid contact with others and wash hands frequently.

Source: Diario de Yucatán

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