The burden of trachoma in Ayod county, one of the most severe ever documented, is a threat to public health in Southern Sudan, according to a recent survey conducted in Jonglei state.
These results were uncovered by experts at The Carter Center and University of Cambridge, and health officials from the government of Southern Sudan. The research determines the extent of the problem and resources needed to eliminate blinding trachoma from the county.
A bacterial eye disease, trachoma is the leading cause of infectious blindness worldwide. Trichiasis (ingrown eyelashes) of more than 1 percent of adults in the population, who usually bear the brunt of blinding trachoma, is a critical public health concern. In Ayod, this threshold exceeded 15-fold in adults and 3-fold in children, who are usually considered to be free of blinding trachoma. Carter Center trachoma expert Jonathan King and his co-authors suggest immediate corrective eyelid surgery to ease the pain and compromised vision of these children, and to help secure their healthy future.
"The sheer severity and magnitude of trachoma in Ayod is reason for international alarm," said King. "At least one person with clinical signs of trachoma was found in nearly every household, and 1 in 3 households had a person with trichiasis or severe blinding trachoma."
With support from The Carter Center, Lions Clubs International Foundation, and Christian Blindness Mission, the Ayod County Health Department has built an eye clinic where it is providing surgical services. In addition, the State Ministry of Health is now implementing the SAFE* strategy to stop the spread of infection and prevent trachoma.
These findings may bolster the international community's response to this debilitating yet preventable disease. Ayod is one of 11 counties in Southern Sudan with documented severe trachoma.
*The World Health Organization recommends the SAFE strategy to stop transmission of trachoma and the vision damage that it causes through: surgery for people with severe trachoma; antibiotics to treat active infections; facial cleanliness to prevent future infections; and environmental sanitation improvements to limit the number of eye-seeking flies that spread the disease.
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