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Health ministry embarks on mass treatment of trachoma

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The Ministry of Health will on Friday start a week-long mass treatment drive against trachoma in areas that have persistently recorded cases despite the disease being largely defeated in many parts of the country.

Odiirah Nansamba, a public relations officer in the ministry says that the door to door exercise that is being conducted in the Karamoja region will be extended to border parts of Kenya. Every person above five years in the household will be given the oral drug.

Targeting 118,500 people in Nabilatuk, Amudat, Nakapiripirit and Moroto, adults will be given azithromycine tablets whereas children will be given a syrup. Lactating and pregnant mothers will be given an eye ointment even when they may not have symptoms associated with poor hygiene linked to sight disease.

The mass treatment comes amidst missed elimination targets. Uganda had committed to a World Health Organisation-WHO target in 2007 to have eliminated the disease that causes blindness by 2020, but the country has since moved this target to 2022, due to continued re-occurrence. Currently, in Karamoja which records the highest number of cases, prevalence remains high at 18%.

With the planned mass medication, ministry of health says this should go down to five percent in the next three years.

Earlier, Dr Gilbert Baayenda, the National Program Officer Trachoma Control, said that they had initially targeted 50 districts that had prevalence higher than 5%, but these have since reduced.

Trachoma is an infection of the eye caused by bacteria called chlamydia trachomatis. It is contagious and spreads through contact with the eyes, eyelids or throat secretions of infected people. It can also be passed on by handling infected items such as handkerchiefs and towels.

Apart from giving antibiotics like in the just starting mass campaign, the ministry had embarked on conducting surgeries and hygiene campaigns to curb the disease.

However, even as they have now set a new target of ending the disease by 2022, it is still unclear if they will have achieved five percent or lower prevalence in all districts around the country which is the set mark for elimination.

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