Thursday, October 11, 2007

Epidemic Strikes Mariana Islands

You may have seen the article on the front page of the Tribune today. We are in the midst of an ugly epidemic of "pink-eye." This strain appears to be highly infectious, striking members of entire families within ours of one another. It's also one of the "hemorrhagic" strains which causes bleeding on the surface of the eye. I've been seeing about a dozen patients a day with this for the past few days.

Pink eye is caused by one of several viruses. It usually takes a week or two to go away. I tell my patients that it's just like a cold. We can't cure it. You have to wait it out. But we can treat the symptoms -- pain, itching, tearing, irritation --- with a variety of medications. This is the reason people come to see me: to get relief of their symptoms.

The big danger with viral conjunctivitis of this sort is that it can cause permanent corneal scarring and vision loss. Scarring can be prevented if we catch things early enough.

The big effect of epidemic viral conjunctivitis is that it results in huge losses in productivity from the general misery it brings. And, because it's highly infectious, anyone who gets it needs to stay away from work or school for about a week.

Isolation is one of the ways to prevent spread. The virus is spread through indirect contact with tears. Someone has pink-eye, they rub their eye and open a door. You're the next person to open that door, then you touch your eye innoculating it with the virus and you get pink eye. Prevention lies in washing your hands after you touch your eyes, if you have the virus; and in washing your hands before you touch your eyes if you don't have it yet. Don't share towels or pillow cases.

It's not an airborne disease. There is some superstition that if you look at someone with pink-eye, you'll catch it. This isn't true. You have to come into contact with the tears, directly or indirectly.

Be careful. Wash your hands. This is a miserable strain right now.


Deece said...

My kids are sick. I took them to the clinic yesterday and was sent to the pharmacy for some meds. I needed to go to the main pharmacy at CHC because Katelyn was not yet registered with PHI and Jacob had a few glitches with our insurance.

Pink eye was everywhere! Everyone appeared to have it. Little kids with red, puffy eyes stared at me from across the way. Four women led by a translator were told by a nurse that their eyes had cleared so they didn't need to see the doctor again. My friend's dad told me that his son, Robert, had pink eye in both eyes. Clients in line ahead of me were waiting for their perscription of "drops" to be filled.

I've been a bit paranoid since. I don't want my family members - especially the kids - to suffer with this virus. And I certainly do not want to miss a week (or more) of work.

Thank you for your article and post informing the public about this epidemic.

Bruce A. Bateman said...

Thanks for keeping us in the loop, David. I was planning a visit to a fried in the hospital but will wait for a while. Great place to catch it.

Meanwhile, The Halloween party is at PORKY'S. Oct 31st. First beer or drink is free, free chasers, 3 bands, come as you are or in costume if you want to enter the contest. Lots of prizes.

Plenty Fun.

See Bruce for tickets. All tickets sold to or by Marianas Dive members rebate 10% back to the group's treasury.

Marianas Eye said...

It really is nasty, Deece. Wash your hands!