Spread of pinkeye gets under control
Since last week, students from a boarding school in Gashora, Bugesera district have been the victim of a viral epidemic known commonly as pinkeye (conjunctivitis), an eye irritation with watery discharge.
The disease is highly contagious causing epidemics. As a result, the disease has not just spread in Bugesera but also to the entire country, jumping from one school to another and the neighbouring villages.
According to Dr. Marie-Aimée Muhimpundu of the division of Epidemic Infectious Diseases at the Rwanda Biomedical Center (RBC), the disease can be communicated through everyday activities. “Borrowing stuff from neighbours, shaking hands, exchanging clothes and other common behaviours contribute to the quick spread of the virus,” she explains.
The main mode of transmission is direct contact with eye secretions and indirectly through contaminated surfaces, instruments and solutions. Other possible methods of transmission, Dr. Muhimpundu points out, are air droplets and swimming pools.
Therefore, RBC asks people to take hygienic measures such as frequent hand-washing, avoiding touching the eyes, avoiding sharing of toilet articles (towels, handkerchiefs, make up…). As the epidemic thrives in closed environments such as schools, which indeed have been most affected, these measures should especially be applied there.
“Most of the time, students sleep together, they share their hygiene items and this helps the virus to spread”, notes Dr. Muhimpundu.
In case of infection, RBC advises that patients stay at home when sick, and boarding schools should reduce movement of students outside the school and isolate those infected in separate dormitories.
However, while infections have spike in the past week, Muhimpundu says that recently no new cases have been reported.
“When we learn about a problem in a certain area, we go there directly to give antibiotics and advise them on how they should behave; the district hospitals do the follow-up”, Muhimpundu explains, adding that currently RBC staff is compiling statistics to assess the number of people affected.
Pinkeye, commonly known in Kinyarwanda as “Amaso y’amarundi” without any scientific basis that the disease has anything to do with Burundi, is classified under the category of mild diseases that can heal in two to three days of treatment, whereas the incubation period ranges between 5 to 12 days.
Symptoms of pinkeye can be are blurry vision, eye pain, eye redness, eye irritation, eye discharge, hazy or cloudy cornea, photophobia (fear of light), increased sensitivity to bright light, increased tearing, and swelling of the eyelid.