Overall prevalence of trachoma in Australia is declining as a result of strengthened control programs, according to a surveillance report released by UNSW’s Kirby Institute.
Trachoma is the leading infectious cause of preventable blindness in the world. While many countries have succeeded in substantially reducing the burden of trachoma, in Australia it continues to be found in remote and very remote Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory, South Australia and Western Australia.
The infection occurs most commonly in young children and can be passed on through discharge from the eyes of an infected child and spread through personal contact and clothing. It can be easily treated by antibiotics, but early treatment is vital to prevent blindness which occurs after repeated episodes of infection, that ultimately lead to scarring of the cornea.
While many countries have succeeded in substantially reducing the burden of trachoma, in Australia it continues to be found in remote Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory, South Australia and Western Australia.
Professor John Kaldor, head of Australian trachoma surveillance at UNSW’s Kirby Institute, said early findings from 2015 show that trachoma in at-risk communities is down by 9.4% since 2009 (currently at 4.6%).
“So we are really seeing the results of health promotion and treatment activities in these regions,” Professor Kaldor said.
“While trachoma is declining overall, the data has revealed ‘hot-spots’ that will require continued focused efforts. We look forward to seeing these communities join the many others in central and northern Australia that have been declared trachoma free.”
These results come as experts from across the globe gather in Sydney for the 20th meeting of the World Health Organization Alliance for the Global Elimination of Trachoma, to take stock of progress and discuss the roadmap to eliminate trachoma globally by 2020.
The full 2015 Australian Trachoma Surveillance Report will be released in June 2016. For the full Kirby Institute media release and a copy of the early release findings visit their website.