Pink eye infections almost double in one week!

By Marion Ali
Assistant Editor

The number of pink eye cases in Belize has almost doubled in a matter of only one week, and now stands at well over 5,000 cases, with the Belize district accounting for more than half that figure!

A check with the Ministry of Health on Wednesday revealed that up to the day before (Tuesday), some 5,434 people from across the country were infected with Conjunctivitis. Of that number, 2,525 of the cases were in the Belize district, followed by Corozal with 1,327 cases. The Cayo district had the third highest number of infections with 814. Orange Walk recorded 387 cases up to the same day, Stann Creek had 292 cases and Toledo had seen 94 cases up to that day.

Adding to the outbreak, the Ministry of Health has confirmed with the Reporter that there is a shortage of stock in most of its facilities for the eye drops prescribed for the bacterial type of the infection. That is only a concern for people who have the bacterial type of “pink eye” because the eye drops do not have any effect on the viral type of the infection, which is what is more prevalent in Belize at this time.

Public Relations Officer with the Ministry, Claudette Dakers-Norales told the Reporter this week that the Ministry is advising doctors to be subjective with the prescription since the majority of the cases are viral in nature.
“There is nothing that can be done if its a virus. No cure. It needs to take its course.

We are asking doctors to recommend artificial tears, having persons washing the eyes every two to three hours and maintaining regular basic hygienic practices,” Dakers-Norales said.
Norales advises patients with “pink eye” to desist from following reports that urine and breast milk helps to treat the eye infection. “It actually gets worse,” she warned.

It takes a person between 5 and 7 days to fully recover, depending on the patient’s immune system. While practicing good hygiene and constantly washing the hands does not shorten the period of the infection, the practice does reduce the chances of spreading the infection to others.

Since the demand for eye drops has peaked this “pink eye” season, there have been a number of reports of price gouging on the medication. Some people have said that the prices of some of the eye drops being offered at some private pharmacies have soared when they returned to purchase more, sometimes by several dollars more, with some supposedly being a more effective treatment. This is a situation which the Ministry is aware of and Dakers-Norales advises people with complaints about price gouging on the medication to forward those complaints to the Belize Bureau of Standards, which is the agency that monitors pricing of products in Belize. Their numbers are: 822 0446 in Belmopan or 223 2845 in Belize City.

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