Pinkeye epidemic

The editor, in the middle of a last week in July that was no fun.


by Eric Jackson

I was. It is said that it’s the website owner’s fondest hope to go viral. Not this way.

But then, along the route to what I am doing now, I had occasion to work in a day care center and learned all about conjunctivitis, or more colloquially, pink eye.

There are various forms — reactions to environmental irritants, bacterial and viral. The viral stuff is what’s going around in Panama. It’s not deadly but it’s highly contagious. The Ministry of Health is calling it a “low intensity epidemic,” with more than 10,600 cases recorded, mostly in the Panama City – Colon – San Miguelito metro area. Surely there are many more unreported cases. One of those was mine — what was the point of seeing a health care professional about something annoying which can’t be treated and runs its course in a week or less?

Yes, there can be serious complications. If you go rubbing your itchy eyes — which will be bloodshot to pink in the whites and may have a discharge like the yellowish goo coming out of mine — you can aggravate the situation and cause permanent eye damage. If it gets well nigh intolerable, use a cold compress on your eyes.

The government doctors are urging people not to self-medicate. There is an outside chance that analgesics could cause complications — an elevated chance with some serious risk if you give aspirin to a child. And antibiotics for a viral infection? — don’t be a total fool! That will not affect the conjunctivitis but it may well make some other bug that you are carrying antibiotic resistant. Inappropriate use of antibiotics can kill you or someone else.

At the day care center we would send kids with pinkeye home, and it made parents furious. Oh, well. And on a bus from Penonome back to my home in rural Anton on this day, there was a schoolboy in his uniform, perhaps seven years old, rubbing his reddish and runny eyes. Whatever he touched will be contagious.

Limit your social, work and educational life when you have conjunctivitis. Keep washing your hands and avoid touching people. Don’t send a kid with conjunctivitis to school, nor let that child out to play with the neighbor kids while his or her eyes are inflamed.


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