MOH probes visiting students' eye infection

SINGAPORE - The Ministry of Health (MOH) has confirmed that it is investigating a case of 40 students from Hong Kong who were hit by an eye infection after a trip here last month.

A South China Morning Post (SCMP) report on Sunday said that 40 out of 60 boys and teens from the Discovery Bay Pirates Rugby Football Club developed the infection after returning to Hong Kong from a rugby tournament here.

They were aged nine to 16 and were here from April 20 to 22.

Many of them reportedly suffered itchy, painful and red eyes and have been unable to attend school since the start of the month.

The eye infection is said to have also affected boys from other teams from Malaysia and Singapore, though not as severely, said SCMP.

A spokesman for Hong Kong's Health Department told SCMP that it is working with the Singapore authorities to determine the cause, though it is unclear if the boys were infected in Singapore or in Hong Kong.

He added that their symptoms point to keratoconjunctivitis, an inflammation of the cornea and the whites of the eye caused by micro-organisms.

An MOH spokesman told my paper: "MOH's surveillance programme at the polyclinics has not shown any unusual rise in the number of cases of conjunctivitis this year.

"Conjunctivitis is generally a self-limiting condition that is treatable."

While medical experts whom my paper spoke to were unable to determine the exact cause due to limited information, they suggested some likely causes.

Dr James Pan, medical director and senior consultant of Nobel Eye & Vision Centre in Mount Alvernia Hospital Medical Centre, said the infection could have been caused by contact with soil which contains "spore-forming unicellular parasites".

The condition is called Microsporidial keratitis.

He said that "having a bath soon after a match is good" but those who have bathed should use a separate towel for their face and body.

He added that they should also wash their eyes immediately should any muddy water or soil enter the eyes.

nggwen@sph.com.sg


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