Kajiado Residents Urged to observe Hygiene to Curb Trachoma
Kajiado County residents have been asked to adhere to sanitation guidelines prescribed by health workers in order to completely eliminate trachoma, a leading cause of permanent blindness in the area. County Ophthamologist Peter Ekuwom said despite the disease being preventable, it affects 30 per cent of the population with 3.5 per cent of the infected in danger of permanent blindness. He regretted that the rate of infection in the county was still high despite frequent mass drug administration campaigns and intensive community mobilization awareness done yearly. The Ophthalmologist, who was speaking to KNA in his office Tuesday, said some of the factors that contribute to the high infection rate include poor hygiene, fear of surgery, ignorance and cultural beliefs. Ekuwom called on the community to practice proper hand washing, regular facial cleaning and hygienic disposal of animal and human wastes as they provide a conducive ground for breeding of flies, the vectors of Chlamydia Trachomatis, the bacterium that causes trachoma. He further urged all residents to go for regular eye check- ups and seek medication immediately they develop symptoms of trachoma such as seeing blurred objects and pain in the eyes so as to save their sight. “I want to urge all residents to go for yearly eye- checkups to prevent infection. Trachoma is preventable but if infected one should undergo treatment immediately before it reaches the blinding stage. Unlike cataract, blindness caused by Trachoma is not reversible through surgery,” he said. The officer said that the second phase of Trachoma mass treatment was already on-going and health workers were conducting a door to door campaign so as to ensure that everyone is screened and treated.
“We are targeting 100 patients per outreach either of active stage or blinding stage. Active stage affects children from the age of 1-9 years and is treated through administration of antibiotics. The blinding stage affects adults from the age of 15 and is treated through surgery,” said Ekuwom. The mass treatment entails the use of surgery for those suffering from trachoma trichiarsis, the blinding stage of the disease, use of antibiotics to treat those in early stages and to prevent infection in the uninfected. The treatment is in line with the SAFE strategy recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) for trachoma control. SAFE is an acronym standing for Surgery for those in advanced stages of trachoma, application of anti-biotic to prevent or treat the infection, facial and environmental cleanliness to reduce the infection. Trachoma is a bacterial infection which affects eye conjunctiva and is mostly common in dry, dusty areas and is contracted through fingers, eyes and flies. The disease is prevalent among pastoralist communities as livestock are kept in close proximity to the households propagating the breeding of flies which spread trachoma. According to statistics from AMREF, an estimated 19% of all cases of blindness in the country are caused by trachoma. In Kajiado North, Kajiado Central and Loitokitok districts, 28% of children aged between one and nine years have active trachoma while 3.3% of the population above 19 years has advanced trachoma and are in danger of going blind. By Rop Janet