Trachoma: Frequently Asked Questions
A. Trachoma is an infectious eye disease, and the world’s leading cause of preventable blindness. It also is one of the oldest infectious diseases known to man. It is caused by a bacteria called Chlamydia trachomatis – which spreads through contact with eye discharge from the infected person (on towels, handkerchiefs, fingers, etc.) and through transmission by eye-seeking flies. The infection starts in young children and heals after a couple of months. However, after years of repeated infection, the inside of the eyelid may be scarred so severely that the eyelid turns inward and the lashes rub on the eyeball, scarring the cornea (the front clear part of the eye). If untreated, this condition leads to the formation of irreversible corneal opacities and blindness.
A. Neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) are identified by the World Health Organization (WHO) as primarily infectious diseases that thrive in impoverished settings. Trachoma is a neglected tropical disease. Other NTDs include leprosy, Guinea worm, lymphatic filariasis, onchocerciasis, soil-transmitted helminths and schistosomiasis. For more information, go to the website of the World Health Organization (WHO).
A. Experts believe that blinding trachoma is endemic in 53 countries, primarily in the poorest communities in the developing world.
A. According to the best research currently available, close to 110 million people live in areas where trachoma is confirmed to be endemic and implementation of the full SAFE strategy is needed. Another 210 million people live in districts where trachoma is suspected but where no data are available to guide interventions. In the confirmed districts, an estimated 4.6 million people suffer from the final stages of the disease and require surgery to prevent them from going blind.
A. The decision is made by the Trachoma Expert Committee (TEC), an independent decision-making body of seven experts that meets twice a year to review country applications for Zithromax®.
A. Yes and safety is always a primary concern. Zithromax® is well tolerated with a low incidence of side effects.
A. Endorsed by the World Health Organization, the SAFE Strategy combines treatment (Surgery and Antibiotics), with prevention (Facial cleanliness and Environmental improvement).
A. No. Elimination of blindness due to trachoma requires all components of the SAFE strategy. People living with advanced stage trachoma (trichiasis) require surgery to avoid immediate blindness. In order to maintain advances made by antibiotic treatment, people in trachoma endemic areas need to keep hygiene and sanitation a priority. Global elimination of blinding trachoma will be achieved and sustained by implementing surgery, distributing antibiotics, and promoting hygiene and sanitation simultaneously.
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