DPHSS: Guam Conjunctivitis Outbreak Continues

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Guam – The Department of Public Health and Social Services (DPHSS) reports that the conjunctivitis outbreak that began earlier this month continues unabated with a total of 248 cases reported by health care providers.   

The week ending May 24 saw the greatest number of conjunctivitis cases reported to date for 2014 with 110 reported.   All ages are being affect with the youngest patient being less than 1 month and the oldest being 82 years of age. Both sexes are affected but males outnumber females slightly by 114 to 107 cases.

What causes conjunctivitis? Conjunctivitis causes inflammation (swelling) of the conjunctiva—the thin layer that lines the inside of the eyelid and covers the white part of the eye. Conjunctivitis is often called “pink eye” or “red eye” because it can cause the white of the eye to take on a pink or red color.

The most common causes of conjunctivitis are viruses, bacteria, and allergens. Other causes include: chemicals, fungi, air pollution, and foreign objects, such as contact lenses.

What are the signs and symptoms of conjunctivitis?

Pink or red color in the white of the eye(s)
Swelling of the conjunctiva and/or eyelids
Increased tearing
Discharge of pus, especially yellow-green (more common in bacterial conjunctivitis)
Itching, irritation, and/or burning
Feeling like a foreign body is in the eye(s) or an urge to rub the eye(s)
Crusting of eyelids or lashes sometimes occurs, especially in the morning
Symptoms of a cold, flu, or other respiratory infection may also be present
Sensitivity to bright light sometimes occurs
Enlargement and/or tenderness, in some cases, of the lymph node in front of the ear

What can be done to prevent the spread of conjunctivitis?

Wash your hands often with soap and warm water or an alcohol based hand rub, especially after handling contaminated items, such as linens and eyeglasses.
Avoid touching or rubbing your eyes.
Wash any discharge from around the eyes several times a day. Wash hands first. Use a clean washcloth or fresh cotton ball/tissue to cleanse the eye area. Wash your hands with soap and warm water when done.
Wash hands before and after applying eye drops or ointment.
Do not use the same eye drop dispenser/bottle for infected and non-infected eyes (even for the same person).
Wash linens in hot water and detergent.
Avoid sharing articles like towels, blankets, and pillowcases.
Clean eyeglasses.
Do not share face make-up and make-up brushes, contact lenses and containers, or eyeglasses.
Do not use swimming pools when infected.

Contact your doctor if you notice any signs or symptoms you think might be pink eye. These may include redness, itchiness, excessive tearing, or a gritty feeling in one or both eyes. A discharge in one or both eyes that forms a crust during the night may prevent your or eyes from opening in the morning if you have conjunctivitis.

If you are around someone with infectious conjunctivitis, you can reduce your risk of infection by following these steps:

Wash your hands often with soap and warm water or an ABHR.
Wash your hands after contact with an infected person or items he or she uses.
Avoid touching or rubbing your eyes.
Do not share items used by an infected person; for example, do not share pillows, washcloths, towels, eye drops, eye or face makeup, and eyeglasses.
Clean and handle your contact lenses as instructed by your eye doctor.

In addition, if you have infectious conjunctivitis, there are steps you can take to avoid re-infection once the infection goes away:

Throw away and replace any eye or face makeup you used while infected.
Replace contact lens solutions that you used while your eyes were infected.
Throw away disposable contact lenses and cases that were used while your eyes were infected.
Clean extended wear lenses as directed.
Clean eyeglasses and cases that were used while infected.

REMEMBER, good personal hygiene — especially frequent hand washing and avoiding rubbing your eyes — are the most important steps you can take to minimize the spread of conjunctivitis.

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