The Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. has confirmed an outbreak of conjunctivitis, more commonly known as “pinkeye,” in the Commonwealth.
Viral and bacterial pinkeye are extremely contagious.
CHCC has issued a health advisory informing the general public of the pinkeye outbreak and advises affected children and adults to stay home to avoid spreading the virus.
Redness of the eye is the typical telltale symptom of pinkeye. According to CHCC advisory, it typically begins in one eye and involves the other within a few days. Swelling of the eyelids is more common with bacterial pinkeye and other allergic reactions to chemical or other environmental elements.
The public is advised that the virus is easily spread through poor hygiene like poor hand washing or sharing an object like towels with others. This can also be spread through coughing and sneezing, according to the advisory.
“Children and adults diagnosed with infectious pinkeye should stay out of school, daycare, and work for a short period of time until they are clear from the virus,” states the advisory.
For those wearing contact lenses, they should also stop wearing these lenses while the condition of pinkeye is active.
In severe cases, injury to the cornea can result in scarring and permanent vision loss.
Those infected with pinkeye are advised to see their primary care physician or eye doctor if symptoms persist, get worse, and/or they are experiencing vision problems.
Data on how many public school children have been infected with pinkeye in the past days and weeks were not readily available yesterday.
Education Commissioner Dr. Rita A. Sablan told Saipan Tribune, however, that public schools are not seeing an alarming number of conjunctivitis cases so far.
She pointed out that the system is always ready to provide assistance to whoever may need it at the school level.
“We do have a precautionary [standard operating procedures] on any kind of outbreak…and as far as pinkeye outbreak is concerned, I haven’t received anything from public health,” said Sablan.
Sablan, upon learning about the latest advisory from CHCC, immediately informed her leadership team to assess the situation in schools.
“Now that we know about this outbreak, I need to assess our situation and inform our leadership and principals in all our schools,” she added.
According to the World Health Organization website, an outbreak is the occurrence of cases of disease in excess of what would normally be expected in a defined community, geographical area or season. It may last for a few days or weeks, or for several years.