Australia still blind to trachoma

3rd Jul 20

Australia is the only developed country in the world still at risk of endemic trachoma, the leading cause of preventable blindness.

79 communities in Australia were identified as ‘at risk’ of trachoma and required immediate screening and treatment for the disease.

Trachoma is easily spread through infected eye and nose secretions from person to person and can be prevented by reducing risk factors such as poor hygiene, litter, dust and overcrowding.

The disease is mainly seen in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory but cases have recently been reported in Queensland and New South Wales.

Environmental Health Practitioner, Dr Melissa Stoneham is leading the #endtrachoma project being run through the Public Health Advocacy Institute of WA (PHAIWA) affiliated with Curtin University to combat trachoma in Western Australia.

"The Environmental Health Trachoma Project (#endingtrachoma) aims to reduce the incidence of trachoma and skin infections in ‘trachoma at risk’ communities in remote WA through environmental health strategies by December 2021," Said Dr Stoneham.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has adopted a SAFE strategy to assist communities combat trachoma: Surgery, Antibiotics, Facial cleanliness and Environmental improvements.

The #endtrachoma project focuses on the last two initiatives: Facial cleanliness and Environmental improvements.

"It seems sensible to address these issues through an Environmental health lens and the #endingtrachoma project is doing just that," Said Dr Stoneham.

Melissa's team will be visiting 41 identified 'at risk' Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in WA every year to identify any key 'F and E' strategies that could assist in reducing trachoma and other hygiene-related illnesses.

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