Following the recent outbreak of nearly 100 cases of Conjunctivitis – often called “pink eye” – in Ratanakkiri province’s O’Yadav district, the Ministry of Health has advised people to exercise preventative measures to reduce the spread of the disease.

According to a September 26 press release from the ministry, health officials have taken immediate action and provided treatment to victims of the bacterial or viral infections.

The ministry explained that most cases of conjunctivitis are mild. Infections usually heal within seven to 14 days without treatment and do not have long-term complications.

“However, in some cases, viral conjunctivitis takes two to three weeks or more to heal. Doctors can prescribe antibiotics such as eye drops,” it said.

Symptoms of the illness include redness of the whites of the eyes and swelling of the eyelids, especially in the morning. Sufferers also experience increased production of tears and irritability, due to heightened sensitivity of the eyes.

Ngy Meng, an eye specialist, advised the public on what they can do to prevent conjunctivitis. They should wash their hands frequently with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds and apply eye drops.

“If you do not have access to soap and water, use at least 60 per cent alcohol sanitiser to clean your hands. Avoid using shared items such as blankets, pillows, towels, scarves or glasses that may contain the virus and do not touch your eyes,” he said.

He added that people with the disease must stop wearing contact lenses until cleared to do so by an ophthalmologist, and should not attempt to treat it with traditional medicine.

“If necessary, go to see an ophthalmologist or eye care provider. Avoid touching, rubbing or irritating the eyes because it makes the condition worse and can spread it to the other eye,” he said.

The ministry warned that viral or bacterial conjunctivitis is highly contagious and can easily spread from person to person. The best way to reduce the risk of infection or transmission is to maintain good hygiene.

The ministry’s Communicable Disease Control Department (CDC) announced the finding of 93 cases of mild conjunctivitis in Ratanakkiri, while other bordering provinces have advised people to protect themselves from the disease.