Viral conjunctivitis is worse during dry season while bacterial conjunctivitis worsen during cold season. [iStockphoto]

At least 300,000 refugees at Kakuma refugee camp are at high risk of contracting viral red eye disease (conjunctivitis).

An outbreak of the disease has been reported in Turkana West sub-county where medics have raised the alarm over the spread of the disease within the refugee camp that extends to surrounding villages within the host community.

Dozens of patients exhibiting symptoms of red eye disease were on Thursday struggling to seek treatment at local health facilities in Kakuma and its environs.

A police officer based at Kalobeyei village 1 Police Post in Kakuma refugee camp is among the people affected by the disease.

“I was in contact with some of my colleagues at the camp and the refugees. I felt my eyes itching and swelling but they worsened when I rubbed them,” said the officer.

Several refugees and the host community have continued to flock local health facilities following the disease outbreak across several villages.

However, the County Department of Health Services and Sanitation has issued a red alert over the outbreak of suspected viral conjunctivitis at Kakuma refugee camp.

Refugees residing within the camp have been urged to exercise caution as the disease is contagious and can easily spread among contacts.

The County Health Executive Francis Mariao said they have activated rapid response teams (RRTs) and deployed health personnel to investigate and establish the cause and extend of the disease occurrence.

In a statement issued on May 22, 2024, the health department said some of those affected exhibited red eye (Conjunctivitis), eye swelling, discharge and itches.

According to the health service department, conjunctivitis is an inflammation of the eyes that can be caused by infectious and irritant agents such as bacteria, viruses, allergens and chemicals.

Common risk factors for conjunctivitis include poor hygiene, contaminated personal articles, crowded living rooms, a history of eye diseases and foreign bodies among others.

Other factors include misuse of contact lens, chronic use of topical medications and extreme weather conditions.

Viral conjunctivitis is worse during dry season while bacterial conjunctivitis worsen during cold season.

The general public has been advised to be cautious and observe hand washing with soap and safe clean running water.

The public should also use hand sanitisers frequently and practice respiratory hygiene as a preventive measure.

Residents have also been urged to disinfect suspected contaminated surfaces and avoid eye rubbing.

“We ask the general public to avoid self-medication and visit health facilities for treatment as soon as symptoms appear. They should self-isolate at home when they develop symptoms,” Mariao.