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Info On Viral Conjunctivitis - 'Red Eye'

In light of a recent increase in cases of Viral Conjunctivitis commonly known as “Red Eye”, the Ministry of Health would like to share the following information with members of the public.

What is Viral Conjunctivitis (Red-eye)?

Red-eye is an inflammation of the conjunctiva (the covering of the eyeball and inside of the eyelid) in the eye. This inflammation may lead to redness, tearing, discharge, itching pain, photophobia and blurred vision. Red-eye is also called conjunctivitis. Red-eye is often caused by a virus called an adenovirus (a very small germ) and is highly contagious (easily spread from one person to another).

How does someone get red eye?

Red eye is spread by contact with:

  • The infected tears, pus or any kind of fluids from the eyes of an infected person.
  • Sharing items such as eye-drops, shades/glasses, microscopes, washrags, towels, pillows, eye make-up etc. can promote the spread of this infection.

How long do I have to wait to know if I have caught red-eye from someone who has it (what is the incubation period)?

You can develop red eye between 4 and 12 days (average 8 days) after being in contact with an infected person. So you have to wait at least that long to know whether you have been infected or not.

For how long is red-eye contagious?

Up to two weeks (14 days) after symptoms starts (even if the person is feeling/looking better by then).

Symptoms

The eye is red and itchy. Sometimes, there is a feeling as if there is sand in the eye. Other symptoms include:

  • Eyelids stuck shut when you wake up in the morning (the classic symptom)
  • Thin, clear drainage from the eye (often a viral infection or an allergic reaction)
  • Itching, burning, or feeling like there is sand in your eye (often a viral infection or an allergic reaction)
  • Painful eye in bright light (called photophobia)

Tips for preventing the spread of “Red-Eye” if you have red eye:

Prevent spreading the infection to the other eye and to other people. Red-eye can be very contagious, so limit your contacts until you are better.

  • Carefully wash your hand before and after you touch around your eye or face.
  • Keep your own personal effects e.g. towels, washrags and pillows separate from others (do not share them) or use paper towels/napkins instead of towels if you have red-eye.
  • Wash or change your pillowcase every day until the infection goes away.
  • Do not touch your infected eye with your fingers. Use tissue paper to wipe.
  • Do not wear eye make-up. Do not share eye make-up.
  • Do not wear your contact lenses until the infection is gone.

Treatment

  • Use over the counter artificial tears to help with itching and irritation. Do not share eye-drops. You can spread the infection to anyone else who uses them.
  • Do not put a patch over your eye. It may cause the infection to become worse.
  • Do not use eye-drops for more than a few days unless instructed by your doctor. Worsening redness could result from repeated use of such products.
  • Visit your doctor if symptoms are not improving.

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