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Increased Cases of Red Eye in Saint Lucia

On June 16, 2017 the Ministry of Health and Wellness has received notification from the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) indicating the recording of increased cases of Conjunctivitis also known as Red Eye. Reports of outbreaks were made to PAHO/WHO from the Bahamas, Brazil, Dominican Republic, Guadeloupe and Martinique. Based on the increased transmission in the territories of the region, health authorities in Saint Lucia immediately strengthened surveillance for Red Eye and alerted the health care workers nationally.

To date the Ministry of Health and Wellness has noted increased number of Red Eye cases both from private sector and public sector medical practitioners within all of regions of the country.

Conjunctivitis is inflammation or swelling of the front lining of the eye (called conjunctiva) and inner lining of the eyelids. This is caused by viral or bacterial infection and may also be due to allergies. It is a highly contagious infection, and can therefore be easily spread from one persons to another through touch. The infection can affect both eyes.

People with conjunctivitis may experience the following symptoms:

  • A gritty feeling in one or both eyes (which can be described as a feeling of sand on the eyeball)
  • Itching or burning feeling in one or both eyes
  • The eyes being very watery
  • A discharge from one or both eyes
  • Swollen eyelids
  • Pink discoloration on the white part of one or both eyes
  • Pain or sensitivity to light

The Ministry of Health and Wellness advises the following actions which persons can take to reduce the spread of Red Eye:

  • Washing hands with soap and flowing water often
  • Carefully cleaning any object that may come into contact with the eye
  • Washing and cleaning off any discharge from the eye with clean cotton and water
  • Placing a cold rag on the eyes can reduce the swelling and pain
  • Avoid touching the eyes with the hands
  • Do not share eye care products and eye cosmetics
  • Wash towels and wash rags often and if possible, in warm water
  • Avoid using contact lenses if there are signs or symptoms of Red Eye
  • Avoid public areas and events if infected with Red Eye
  • See the health care provider if the infection gets worse and does not improve after five days.

Work places and institutions are advised to enforce the following:

  • Staff members who develop signs and symptoms of the disease should be sent home.
  • Measures should be in place to ensure the staff can adhere to sanitary and hygienic practices in the work environment. This includes availability of soap, pipe borne water, hand sanitizers and paper towels for both employees and clients of the organization.
  • Regular disinfecting of surfaces and door knobs and handles and other sites of frequent hand contact.

For more information, please contact the Bureau of Health Education, at the Ministry of Health and Wellness at telephone number 468-5349.

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