Recently, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared that Iraq has successfully tackled trachoma as a public health issue. With this achievement, the country becomes the 17th to officially eradicate the disease. Here is what you need to know about how Iraq eliminated trachoma.
What is Trachoma?
Trachoma, caused by the bacteria Chlamydia trachomatis, is a disease affecting the eyes. If left untreated, trachoma may cause irreversible blindness. Symptoms of the infection include inflammation of the eyelids, swollen lymph nodes and discharge from the eye. Nearly 2 million people have suffered visual impairment from the neglected tropical disease, and nearly 125 million live in areas where trachoma is endemic.
The disease is spread through direct or indirect contact with the eyes or nose of an infected person, with poor sanitation and hygiene serving as major risk factors for exacerbated transmission. Because of this, trachoma predominantly affects regions with little access to clean water and a higher population density.
In order to combat the spread of this disease, Iraq introduced a program to monitor trachoma among its population in 2012. The screening system was introduced in Iraq’s eye care facilities, as well as through in-school eye screening programs.
The program involved thousands of eye care specialists and health care workers dedicated to combating trachoma as a public health issue. Through these measures, Iraq was able to successfully counter the unchecked spread of trachoma and treat patients in need of antibiotics.
Mitigating the Spread
The elimination of trachoma was made possible through a number of approaches to improve public health. In order to properly address the spread of the disease, the WHO recommends a number of policies designed to reduce the spread and progression of trachoma.
The SAFE strategy has shown to be very effective in combating trachoma and is encouraged in many countries facing issues of endemic trachoma. This strategy includes Surgery for those dealing with advanced stages of the disease, Antibiotics, Facial cleanliness and Environmental improvements — particularly improvements in sanitation.
Trachoma significantly affects living conditions and economic activity in Iraq. The elimination of trachoma within the country has the potential to significantly affect the quality of life and poverty in Iraq’s most vulnerable regions.
Accessibility of treatment and prevention in Iraq has reduced the risk of contraction and progression of trachoma. Areas previously affected by the disease now have a far lower risk of visual impairment and blindness as a result of the infection.
Trachoma’s global economic burden is estimated to be between $2 to 5 billion each year, centering around lost productivity as a result of vision loss. The elimination of trachoma provides a great deal of relief for regions most affected by the disease, including the potential for more economic stability.
Iraq’s success in eradicating trachoma serves as yet another step towards the global eradication of the disease. After Iraq eliminated trachoma, it became the fifth country in the region to successfully tackle the disease. This achievement demonstrates the importance of comprehensive approaches to public health issues, as well as the potential for further disease prevention in Iraq and abroad.
– Mary Burke