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Times of India
14 September 2010
By Anahita Mukherji & Malathy Iyer
Mumbai, India

It’s September, and conjunctivitis stalking classrooms in the city again. In what is being touted as an intense outbreak of the disease, students displaying the classic symptoms–red, watering eyes–are routinely being sent back home from school.

Conjunctivitis Scourge Stalks City Classrooms
At Holy Family School in Andheri, for instance, over 100 students were sent home last week. "Every day, I have to send 20 to 30 boys home because they have sore eyes. This is definitely more than what we normally have to deal with," said school principal Fr Francis Swamy.

As TOI had reported in its September 11 edition, the city is reeling from an outbreak of conjunctivitis. J J Hospital’s ophthalmology department is reportedly seeing 10 to 12 new cases every day, with doctors diagnosing three causes for the outbreak: viral, bacterial or allergic.

In fact, doctors fear that the Ganpati celebrations could lead to a further spurt in cases.

"People are keen to visit as many pandals as possible and conjunctivitis won’t deter them, but this could increase the incidence of the disease," said Dr T P Lahane, dean of J J Group of Hospitals and a leading eye surgeon. Red Eye Alert

Conjunctivitis is an inflammation of the tissue that lines the inside of the eyelid and can be caused by a virus, bacteria and allergens

DO’S DON’TS Mumbai: Eye surgeon Dr Sunil Morekar has put out messages on social networking sites Twitter and Facebook, saying: "Take care of the kids...bad epidemic already started in Mumbai. Lots of friends, eye surgeons, seeing it." He is, of course, referring to the severe outbreak of conjunctivitis that has the city in its grip.

Indeed, school principals are reporting a dip in attendance. Said Sudeshna Chatterjee, principal of Jamnabai Narsee School, Juhu, "A lot of children have been suffering from viral infections, including conjunctivitis, from the start of the academic year. Our healthcare unit at school has had its hands full this season."

The experience at Avabai Petit School in Bandra is not any different. "We have had quite a few children with conjunctivitis this season. This includes children in the pre-primary section as well. Often, children come to school with red eyes. Their parents don’t realize how serious it is, but within a few hours, their eyes are very red and sore, and start watering. We have to call their parents and inform them that their children have conjunctivitis," said principal Sandhya Balakrishnan.

In medical terms, it’s not yet a conjunctivitis epidemic, add doctors. "There is more of conjunctivitis this time–say, 10% more–than last year," said Dr Lahane, but it isn’t yet an epidemic. "Patients should be told to stay indoors for seven days before they visit Ganpati pandals."

Hinduja Hospital’s Dr Nishita Agarwala warns against self-medication. "There is more conjunctivitis than before, but it is usual for this part of the year. What people should do is avoid steroid drops. It is best to go to a doctor."

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