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False: Conjunctivitis is not spread by eye contact

Paru le mercredi, 06 mars 2024 10:39

A common belief in Cameroon is that conjunctivitis can be contracted by direct eye contact with an infected individual. This claim has been debunked by specialists contacted by SBBC.  

On Facebook, a publication suggests that it is possible to catch conjunctivitis just by looking at an infected individual. "Conjunctivitis. This disease is raging in Cameroon now, so you lovebirds should knock it off with your sweet," wrote an Internet user on October 30, 2023. The post may not have gone viral, but it revived a widely held belief in Cameroon that you can catch conjunctivitis just by staring straight at an infected person.

The Ministry of Public Health on October 30 announced an outbreak of conjunctivitis, a highly contagious but benign eye infection, with numerous clusters in schools. The announcement came even before the Facebook post suggesting the disease could be contracted through eye contact.

Dr. Emmanuel Thierry Mayi Mbam, an ophthalmologist and deputy coordinator of the National Blindness Program, refuted this claim in an interview with SBBC. He explained that conjunctivitis is transmitted through contact with surfaces contaminated by an infected person, not through eye contact.

Transmission occurs through direct contact with the conjunctival mucosa of the fingers or any other contaminated object, often by rubbing the eyes with contaminated fingers,” added Dr. Jean Audrey Ndongo, an ophthalmologist at the Douala Gynaeco-Obstetric and Paediatric Hospital.

While no treatment has proven effective in shortening the duration of the disease, the primary treatment strategy is to relieve symptoms until the body eliminates the virus, said Dr. Ndongo. Dr. Mayi Mbam emphasized that a key treatment strategy for conjunctivitis is to break the chain of transmission. This involves isolating infected individuals, who should refrain from going to work or school to prevent the spread of the disease. Adherence to barrier measures is crucial when dealing with conjunctivitis, he added.

In the press release mentioned above, Public Health Minister Manaouda Malachie urged the public to follow preventive measures against diseases transmitted through lacrimal or respiratory secretions. These measures include regular hand washing with clean water and soap or a hydroalcoholic solution, avoiding touching the face or rubbing the eyes if symptoms are present, keeping infected individuals away from school and work environments, limiting close contact with those suffering from conjunctivitis, and using single-use towels or tissues.

In conclusion, the belief that conjunctivitis can be transmitted by eye contact is false. The disease is transmitted through contact with the liquid that runs from the infected person’s eye and with objects contaminated by the patient.

Patricia Ngo Ngouem

Dernière modification le mercredi, 06 mars 2024 10:43

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