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Monsoon Woes: Rise in eye flu cases all over India

Advisory on Conjunctivitis Outbreak (Eye Flu) by Directorate of Health and Family Welfare

The recent advisory issued on July 29 by the Directorate of Health and Family Welfare has alerted the public to a sudden outbreak of conjunctivitis (commonly known as Eye Flu) in India. There has been a notable increase in reported cases of Eye flu, warranting immediate attention and precautionary measures to control its spread.

This advisory has been issued in light of a rapid rise in the number of conjunctivitis cases in various cities across India. The hot and humid climate has contributed to this surge. The hospitals are flooded with eye flu cases. As per various media reports, More than 1000 cases were treated in hospitals in Hyderabad. AIIMS, Delhi has reportedly managed around 100 acute cases per day recently.


Everything you need to know about Eye Flu (Conjunctivitis)!

What is Eye Flu or Conjunctivitis?

Conjunctivitis, also known as “Pink eye,” is a common eye condition that affects the conjunctiva, a thin, transparent layer of tissue that covers the front surface of the eye and lines the inner surface of the eyelids.

Types of Conjunctivitis

Types of Conjunctivitis

Viral Conjunctivitis

Usually caused by a viral infection, such as the common cold due to adenovirus.

It is invariably contagious. Viral eye flu can spread from person to person through contact with eye secretions.

Bacterial Conjunctivitis

Caused by bacterial infection, often by staphylococcal or streptococcal bacteria. 

It is also contagious and can be transmitted through direct contact.

Allergic Conjunctivitis

Triggered by an allergic reaction to substances like pollen, pet dander, or dust mites. 

This type is not contagious.

Viral Conjunctivitis

Bacterial Conjunctivitis

Allergic Conjunctivitis

Usually caused by a viral infection, such as the common cold due to adenovirus.

It is invariably contagious. Viral eye flu can spread from person to person through contact with eye secretions.

Caused by bacterial infection, often by staphylococcal or streptococcal bacteria. 

It is also contagious and can be transmitted through direct contact.

Triggered by an allergic reaction to substances like pollen, pet dander, or dust mites. 

This type is not contagious.

Common Ways to Get Contagious Pink Eye (Conjunctivitis):

  • Direct Contact: One of the primary ways to get contagious pink eye is through direct contact with an infected person, especially through hand-to-eye contact. When an infected person touches their eyes and then touches someone else or an object that others subsequently touch, the infection can spread.
  • Contaminated Surfaces: Pink eye can also be acquired by touching surfaces or objects contaminated with infectious eye secretions from someone who has conjunctivitis.
  • Sharing Personal Items: Sharing personal items like towels, eye drops, or cosmetics with someone who has conjunctivitis can lead to transmission of the infection.
  • Contact Lens Hygiene: Inadequate cleaning of contact lenses or using poorly fitting contact lenses can also increase the risk of getting contagious pink eye.

Symptoms of Conjunctivitis (Pink Eye):

  • Red and Burning Eyes: The eyes may appear pink or red due to inflammation of the conjunctiva, giving the condition its common name “pink eye.”
  • Itchiness: Itchy eyes are a frequent complaint, especially in cases of allergic conjunctivitis.
  • Puffy Eyelids: Swelling of the eyelids can occur due to inflammation.
  • Blurry or Hazy Vision: Vision may be affected, particularly if there is a significant discharge or swelling.
  • Excessive Mucus or Discharge: Yellow or white discharge from the eyes can be observed, especially in cases of bacterial conjunctivitis.

Other uncommon symptoms of eye flu may include

  • Sensitivity to Light (Photophobia): People with conjunctivitis may experience sensitivity to light, causing discomfort in well-lit environments.
  • Watery Eyes (Tearing): Excessive tearing can occur due to eye irritation.
  • Gritty or Foreign Body Sensation: Some individuals may feel as though there is something gritty or foreign in their eyes. (Especially getting observed amongst patients in the ongoing Pink Eye Flu Epidemic)

Precautions during the Monsoon Season in India to Prevent Conjunctivitis Outbreak

India is witnessing a rise in cases of eye flu during the hot and humid monsoon season. To minimize the risk of acquiring and spreading conjunctivitis, residents, and visitors in the affected areas need to take proper precautions.

Some general precautions and measures that the general population can take to prevent the spread of conjunctivitis:

  • Hand Hygiene: It is recommended to frequently wash your hands with soap and water or sanitize them with 60% alcohol to get rid of germs. This should be done after touching eyes, face, or any potentially contaminated surfaces.
  • Avoid Touching Eyes: Refrain from touching or rubbing your eyes to minimize the risk of transferring viruses or bacteria from your hands to the eyes.
  • Avoid sharing personal items such as towels, washcloths, eye drops, or cosmetics with others.
  • Proper Disposal: Dispose of tissues and other materials used to clean the eyes in a proper waste bin to prevent accidental contamination.
  • Hygienic Practices: Follow good hygiene practices, such as regularly cleaning and disinfecting frequently-touched surfaces and objects in your home and workplace.
  • Avoid Close Contact: If you or someone you know has conjunctivitis, avoid close contact with others, and consider staying home until symptoms subside or as advised by a healthcare professional.
  • Avoid Eye Irritants: Minimize exposure to irritants that can worsen Conjunctivitis, such as smoke, pollen, dust, or harsh chemicals.
  • Eye Protection: Consider wearing glasses or sunglasses when outdoors to shield your eyes from allergens and irritants.
  • Seek Medical Attention: If you experience symptoms of conjunctivitis, such as redness, discharge, or discomfort, consult a healthcare professional promptly for appropriate diagnosis and management.
  • Follow Medical Advice: If diagnosed with conjunctivitis, follow your healthcare provider’s instructions regarding treatment, medication, and infection control measures 
What sort of treatment is given for Eye Flu or conjunctivitis?
  • For Viral conjunctivitis, supportive care like artificial tears and warm compresses can help relieve symptoms. The symptoms of eye flu resolve within a week on its own.
  • Bacterial conjunctivitis may be treated with antibiotic eye drops or ointments to clear the infection.
  • Allergic conjunctivitis can be managed by avoiding allergens or using antihistamine eye drops.
Take Away

Practicing good hygiene, such as frequent handwashing and avoiding touching the eyes, can help reduce the risk of acquiring and spreading conjunctivitis. Additionally, proper contact lens hygiene and avoiding the sharing of personal eye-care items can play a significant role in preventing the transmission of the infection.

It’s essential to note that the specific symptoms and severity can vary depending on the type of conjunctivitis (viral, bacterial, or allergic). If you experience any of these symptoms, especially if they worsen or persist, seek medical attention for proper diagnosis and appropriate management. Remember, early recognition and timely medical intervention can help prevent further spread of the infection and promote faster recovery.

Author: Dr. Areez Khoja, MBBS

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