The Dominican Republic Ministry of Health said Friday that conjunctivitis is affecting all regions of the country and a high number of cases have been reported in recent weeks, prompting health officials to call it an epidemic, according to a report (computer translated).

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Drs. Héctor Quezada, Deputy Minister of Epidemiology; José Manuel Puello, director general of Health Management of the Population, and Juliana Margarita González Gil, director of the Ophthalmology Service of the Ministry of Health, said during a press conference that in the last three weeks there has been a steady increase in cases of conjunctivitis, totaling 8,343 cases.

“The outbreak or epidemic in practical terms is the same thing, and there have been reports of increases in cases in the country, because there are people who do not go to the doctor and others go more than once to health centers,” said Puello.

Dr. Quezada indicated that up to the 20th epidemic week of the year, 44,874 cases have been accumulated, and in the same period in 2016, when 39,081 cases of conjunctivitis were reported.

He explained that the provinces with the highest rates of the disease are Montecristi, Dajabón, Independencia, Pedernales, Distrito Nacional and the province of Santo Domingo.

Pink eye, or Conjunctivitis, is a common eye ailment caused by an infection or inflammation of the conjunctiva. The conjunctiva is the clear, thin membrane that covers the white portion of the eyes as well as the inner surface of the eyelids.

The three common causes of pink eye are viral, bacterial and allergic. The symptoms of each form are listed below:

Viral Conjunctivitis Symptoms

• Watery eyes accompanied with discharge are usual.
• Discomfort in the eye with itchiness maybe present.
• The infection usually affects one eye but can move to both.

Bacterial Conjunctivitis Symptoms

• Watery eyes followed with yellow or green discharge are natural occurrences.
• Irritation can be found along with an itchy feeling.
• The infection usually starts with one eye and can spread to the other.

Allergic Conjunctivitis Symptoms

• Heavy tearing, discomfort, and itchiness affecting both eyes are especially likely.

Bacterial and viral conjunctivitis are very contagious. Only bacterial conjunctivitis can be treated with antibiotics.

To prevent the outbreak from spreading, health officials advise infected people to avoid contact with others and stay at home.