2 Dec 2010

Eye specialist says Pacific afflicted by unnecessary blindness

6:50 pm on 2 December 2010

A world renown eye doctor says there is a lot of unnecessary blindness in the Pacific region.

A professor of International Eye Health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Dr Allen Foster, says Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Fiji have a serious problem with visual disability rates.

He says new research and development programmes are aimed at saving sight in the Pacific from preventable eye diseases like trachoma.

Trachoma is a bacterial infection occurring in areas with poor water supply and limited sanitation.

"And it starts in children. They get the infection, they infect one another. And then gradually over time, the infection causes the eyelashes to turn in. And then the eyelashes turning in are very painful, but they also scar the eye and cause blindness."

Professor Foster says a new single dose antibiotic, which is very effective against trachoma, is being given to whole communities in Solomon Islands to try and eliminate the disease.

He says there are about 40 million people in the world who cannot see and 30 million of those have lost their sight due to preventable and treatable conditions.