Battling trachoma among children for several decades now, doctors from AIIMS have finally announced that the country is free from the eye infection that often leads to blindness.
Trachoma is common in children till nine years of age. It is caused by the bacterial agent chlamydia trachomatis and usually spread due to flies, poor hygiene, crowded places, lack of water, and environmental factors such as humid conditions. Improper disposable of garbage also adds to the spread of the disease.
On the occasion of the Golden Jubilee celebrations of Dr Rajendra Prasad Centre for Ophthalmic Science, (Prof) Dr Atul Kumar, chief and professor of ophthalmology at AIIMS, told Mail Today, "In a major achievement, ophthalmic experts from RP Centre visited high risk states of Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Nicobar Islands, and conducted mass treatment programmes among children."
The national three-year survey was in collaboration with the Union health ministry. "The World Health Organisation (WHO) plans to eradicate the disease by 2020, but our team has done it by 2017. AIIMS is soon going to submit is report to the ministry," Kumar said.
Dr Praveen Vashist, professor and head of community ophthalmology, who was part of the survey team, told Mail Today, "In1950, the prevalence of the disease was very high in Northwest India. About 50-80 per cent children were diagnosed with infection, following which the then Union health ministry started the National Trachoma Control Programme."
In 1971-74, the first major survey was conducted by ICMR, which found the disease still prevalent and a major cause of blindness among children. The second major survey was conducted in 1986-89, the results of which turned out to be positive. It found only 10-15 per cent children contracted the disease.
"In, 2006-07, we did a rapid assessment survey (RAS) in six States and found that prevalence of the disease was reducing, but it still existed for which we could not declare a trachoma-free India," said an AIIMS doctor.
"In the most recent national survey that was done over three years, our aim was to eradicate the disease among children and treat adults. We found nearly 50 per cent tribals in Nicobar at high risk of contracting the disease. So we recommended mass treatment to the entire population of the island. Tribals were trained to follow good hygiene in their daily lives," Vashist said.