Mexico Eliminates Disease That Causes Blindness

Mexico eliminates trachoma.

Mexico eliminates trachoma.

A disease which is the leading infectious cause of blindness worldwide has been eliminated in Mexico. The disease, trachoma, occurs primarily in hot, dry countries and affects people without access to clean water to wash their faces.

Mexico increased its actions to eliminate the disease in 2004. Efforts were focused on cleanliness, antibiotics, environmental improvement, and surgery for the advanced stage of the disease. Its slogan was “With water, soap and cleanliness you can prevent trachoma.” Teachers also met regularly with parents to promote better hygiene.

The Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) said, “This is a historic moment for public health in Mexico and the Americas. Eliminating a disease is not achieved every day.” The director also acknowledged that the achievement was the result of a decades-long effort by Mexican authorities, health workers, and communities to improve their health and quality of life.

Trachoma is caused by bacterial infection. It mainly affects young children, and can be spread by personal contact or by flies that have been in contact with the discharge from the eyes or nose of an infected person. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), trachoma is a public health problem in 42 countries and is responsible for the blindness or visual impairment of about 1.9 million people. Repeated episodes of the infection over time can invert the eyelashes so that they rub over the surface of the eye, causing pain and permanent damage. Blindness from trachoma is irreversible.

 Spokepersons from PAHO and WHO said Mexico is the first country in the Americas and the third country worldwide to eliminate trachoma. Oman was the first country to eliminate the disease followed by Morocco. Another five countries are waiting for WHO validation that they, too, have eliminated trachoma.

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