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Health Department Warns Of Highly-Contagious Pink Eye Outbreak In St. Thomas


CHARLOTTE AMALIE — A possible outbreak of Epidemic Keratoconjunctivitis (EKC) — popularly known as “pink eye” has been identified in the St. Thomas district, according to local health officials.

The V.I. Department of Health was notified by a St. Thomas ophthalmology practice that 30 patients have been diagnosed with a probable case of Epidemic Keratoconjunctivitis (EKC) or “pink eye.”

The DOH said that it is waiting for lab results to confirm the diagnosis of the patients.

EKC is an acute eye infection that can cause permanent corneal scaring.

It is a highly contagious viral infection of the eye.

Symptoms can last up to two weeks or more.

The symptoms of EKC can occur in one or both eyes and include:

 A feeling that something is in the eye

 Redness, irritation and itchiness of the eyes (“pink eye”)

 Swelling of the eyelids

 Sensitivity to light

 Clear or yellow drainage that may make the eyelids stick together

 Blurred vision

 Eye pain

EKC is very contagious and children should stay home from school until symptoms are gone or until cleared by a doctor, health experts said.

It is OK to go to work, they said, but healthcare workers should be clear of infection by a healthcare provider prior to returning to work.

If you have EKC:

 Avoid touching your eyes whenever possible. If you do touch your eyes, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and running water

 Avoid touching other people unless your hands are freshly washed

 Avoid hugging or kissing with close face to face contact during an EKC outbreak

 Dispose of or carefully wash items (hot water and detergent) that touch your eyes

 Do not share eye makeup or other items used on the eyes (e.g., towels, tissues, eye drops, eye medications)

 Use a separate towel and face cloth for each member of the household

 Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing

 Use disposable tissues to blow your nose, sneeze or cough

 If you visit a clinic for eye symptoms, tell them that your child’s school recently had an episode of EKC so they prevent spread of infection within the clinic.

To report suspected “pink eye” cases please contact Dr. Esther Ellis (340) 718-1311 ext 3841.


HORROR STORY: A case of Gonococcal Conjunctivitis.

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The Author

John McCarthy

John McCarthy

John McCarthy is primarily known for his investigative reporting on the U.S. Virgin Islands. A series of reports beginning in the 1990's revealed that there was everything from coliform bacteria to Cryptosporidium in locally-bottled St. Croix drinking water, according to a then-unpublished University of the Virgin Islands sampling. Another report, following Hurricane Hugo in 1989, cited a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) confidential overview that said that over 40 percent of the U.S. Virgin Islands public lives below the poverty line. The Virgin Islands Free Press is the only Caribbean news source to regularly incorporate the findings of U.S. Freedom of Information Act requests. John's articles have appeared in the BVI Beacon, St. Croix Avis, San Juan Star and Virgin Islands Daily News. He is the former news director of WSVI-TV Channel 8 on St. Croix.

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