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Conjunctivitis: A contagious worrying epidemic in Bujumbura

“At first, when a patient is attacked by conjunctivitis, he gets difficulties to see with open-eyes in the presence of light. People seek sunglasses to help themselves”, said Evelyne Nabasoni an ophthalmologist and manager at Town Ophthalmo Center. PhotoFIle

Burundi displays a heightened vulnerability to public health emergencies. In recent years, there have been several episodes of epidemics of malaria, cholera (January 2023), measles, poliomyelitis and COVID-19, now strikes conjunctivitis.

After a year Cholera was declared, the country is being hit by conjunctivitis at the down of 2024 especially in Bujumbura downtown. Residents present symptoms of inflammation of the transparent membrane covering the white part of the eye and the inside of the eyelids, according to health experts.

It was first honked to horns by Clinique de l’Oeil on the 30th of January 2024 alerting Bujumbura to watch out on their X Account (formerly Twitter).

“At first, when a patient is attacked by conjunctivitis, he gets difficulties to see with open-eyes in the presence of light. People seek sunglasses to help themselves”, said Evelyne Nabasoni an ophthalmologist and manager at Town Ophthalmo Center.

The epidemic, disallows sick people attending to their daily activities for some days, she said.

Désiré Niyongabo, a worker in private sector says that nowadays job lumps are reducing, due to the epidemic.

“At the job, today you may see one infected person, that one gets some days off, and tomorrow you see another one, the number of patients increases day-by-day it seems that no one will remain uncontaminated”, adds Niyongabo.

According to Stratégie de coopération Burundi-OMS 2024-2027 plan, Burundi suffers from a growing vulnerability to public health emergencies as in recent years, the country experienced a series epidemie of malaria, cholera, measles, poliomyelitis and COVID-19 in a fragilised health system.

In addition, says the strategy, healthcare trends reflect ongoing disquiet, with many endemic and endemo-epidemic communicable diseases (malaria, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis) predominating, and the emergence of non-communicable diseases (hypertension, diabetes, cancer, trauma, malnutrition and mental illness).

As of conjunctivitis, main hospitals received queues of patients awaited for treatment. Some of them wore sun glasses. Many went further expressing their frustarations as they have little knowledge or none about the illness for example how it spreads.

Kanyange Aline, a mother of three living at Gihosha, says that when one of household is infected, the rest of the area must be attacked.

“In our compound, one man had conjunctivitis, all the rest of the house has followed, and now we are all suffering. In our neighborhood this tragic illness has encroached so many people,” said Kanyange.

Evelyne Nabasoni who has launched an appeal to the population saying that if someone finds himself with one of the signs among the symptoms of the disease, they should go directly to the hospital to consult a doctor because that epidemic is not treated by traditional medicine.

“When using traditional medicine, it may provoke other infections to the eye, or blindness,” advised the ophthalmologist.

Noting that, the Burundi Minister in of health and the fight against AIDS, Lyduine BARADAHANA on 13th of February 2024 has partaken the press release about conjunctivitis, its symptoms and the way out of the epidemic.

A raging but curable epidemic

In her speech, she warns that self-medication can cause complications and that the population should go at health centers for first-aid and advisory. “Usage of inappropriate medicines without prescription may intensify the disease,” said Baradahana.

“Conjunctivitis is a severe disease and very contagious but shortly curable,” added Baradahana.

Various Symptoms

In her press release, Lyduinear Baradahana informs the conjunctivitis’ symptoms to the population include:

  • Redness around eyes which can affect the white of the eye and inside of the eyelids.
  • Sensation of foreign body in the eye
  • Feeling grains and sand in one’s eye
  • Itchy and watery ayes
  • Swelling of the eyes

What to do for safety?

A better prevention according our interviewed ophthalmologist; people who have not yet caught the disease should;

  • Wash their hands regularly with clean water and soap,
  • Avoid hand greetings;
  • Avoid washing in swimming pools;
  • Avoid sleeping in the same bed with someone already contaminated;
  • Clean your hands thoroughly before and after handing your eyes;
  • Avoid frequent touch on their eyes.

When you have already caught conjunctivitis, it’s highly recommended that;

  • Patients don’t rub their eyes;
  • Clean your hands thoroughly before and after handing your eyes;
  • Wash both eyes using compress with lukewarm water to loosen the eyelids in the event of purulent secretions;
  • Avoid going to places where several people meet in order to avoid the spread of the disease.

The ophthalmologist added that regarding treatment, medical consultation is recommended as soon as symptoms appear even if most cases of conjunctivitis heal spontaneously between 5 and 10 days.

Several simple measures can also relieve symptoms, including lubricants which help reduce the sensation of sand in the eye as well as other medical prescriptions, she said.

“Yes of course, to wear sun glasses helps, but I recommend not wearing them until recovery. And put in mind that if conjunctivitis is not treated, symptoms can worsen.” added Ophthalmologist.

The epidemic started in the Bujumbura town, but now; it’s spreading within countryside.

Charles Ndayizeye
Charles Ndayizeyehttps://insideburundi.org
Charles Ndayizeye graduated at the National University in the Department of English Languages and Literature. He is passionate about storytelling. He covers a wide range of topics related to Economics, Health, Environment, and News about Burundi and the East Africa Community.
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