Sharon Buwerimwe, Chronicle Reporter
GOVERNMENT started undertaking a trachoma baseline survey in 20 districts last week to establish the prevalence and distribution of the tropical disease in the country.
Trachoma is an eye disease caused by a bacterial agent known as Chlamydia trachomatis which spreads from one person to another through flies, poor hygiene and environmental factors such as humid conditions.
In an interview, Deputy Director in charge of Communicable Diseases in the Ministry of Health and Child Care, Dr Isaac Phiri, said the survey is being conducted in conjunction with the World Health Organisation.
He said mass treatments campaigns using Zithromax, a strong antibiotic, have been carried out in four highly endemic areas Lupane, Binga, Gokwe South and Centenary. “We are making efforts to tackle the blinding trachoma in the country and we have carried surveys in 20 districts in areas that include Centenary, Binga, Gokwe South, Gokwe North, Mazowe, Mt Darwin, Bindura, Goromonzi, Murewa, Tsholotsho, just to mention but a few,” said Dr Phiri.
He said medicines with an estimated cost of US$ 14 million funded by the Industrial Training Institute (ITI) and WHO have been delivered to the Ministry.
Dr Phiri said trachoma should not be left untreated because it causes blindness.
“If trachoma is left untreated, it causes scaring in the eyelid leading to the upper eyelashes to turn inward and scratch the eye globe, causing extreme pain and eventually leading to irreversible blindness,” said Dr Phiri.
He said those with advanced stages of the disease need surgery to correct their in-turned eyelashes and prevent further damage to the eye.
Dr Phiri urged people to desist from open defecation, construct and keep their toilets clean, as well as practising good hygiene.
“The country is going through a nationwide drive to push for WHO recommended planning and implementation strategy known as Surgery, Antibiotics, Facial cleanliness and Environmental improvements (SAFE) in targeted districts.
“As straight forward as the SAFE sounds, a significant rollout of all components of SAFE is needed in communities suffering from trachoma,” said Dr Phiri.
WHO Medical Officer Dr Anderson Chimusoro said trachoma surveys are essential to provide data to facilitate planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of trachoma control programmes.
“This survey is supposed to give us information on the prevalence and distribution of trachoma in Zimbabwe,” said Dr Chimusoro. – @ sharonbuwe