South Sudan Declares Massive Red Eye Outbreak On Uganda Border

Juba — South Sudanese health officials on Monday declared an outbreak of conjunctivitis, also known as pink eye, along the border between Uganda.

Minister of Health Yolanda Awel Deng said the outbreak was first detected among travelers from neighboring Uganda where similar cases had been reported, and the ministry declared an outbreak of the disease in March.

In a statement, she noted that the health authorities in Nimule (a border town between South Sudan and Uganda) have heightened their surveillance at the major point of entry to identify suspected cases, collect samples to confirm the causative agent, and manage suspected cases at the nearest health facilities.

Conjunctivitis is characterized by inflammation of the conjunctiva and the inner eyelids that can be caused by various factors, including viral and bacterial infections, seasonal allergies, and reactions to eye medications, among others.

As of April, the minister claimed that a total of 382 suspected cases were screened and managed, of which 297 cases were detected at the Nimule point of entry and 85 other cases at Nimule hospital, with other cases being reported in the national capital of Juba.

Deng further claimed that viral conjunctivitis is highly contagious and can easily spread from person to person through direct physical contact, sharing personal items such as towels and pillowcases, or even sharing eye drops or eyeglasses.

Symptoms may include redness on the thin white layer of the eye or inner surfaces of the eyelid, increased tear production, thick yellow discharge over the eyelashes, itching, blurred vision, and sensitivity to light. The contagious period is within the first 10 to 12 days; however, the infection can last up to three weeks.

Deng said they have initiated several measures, which include promoting personal hygiene and water, sanitation, and hygiene activities in Nimule, strengthening surveillance, managing and treating affected individuals, sensitizing the public about the disease and prevention measures, and orienting health care workers on investigating and responding to cases of red eye disease.

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