What explains the ‘pink eye’ outbreak in India?

Symptoms include redness, itch, pain, watery, puffy, tearing of the eyes.
Symptoms include redness, itch, pain, watery, puffy, tearing of the eyes.


  • Scientists maintain that conjunctivitis is common in India and mostly seen during the rainy season

India is currently witnessing an outbreak of conjunctivitis, commonly known as ‘pink eye’, a contagious eye infection. At present, the country’s top hospital, AIIMS Delhi, is witnessing more than 100 patients every day. Mint explains the outbreak.

Is conjunctivitis a global health concern?

An alarming increase in conjunctivitis has emerged as a major global health concern, affecting a significant number of people across continents. This contagious eye condition involves the inflammation of the conjunctiva, a thin membrane that covers the white part of the eye and the inner eyelids, leading to uncomfortable symptoms like redness, itching, and excessive tearing. The outbreak has been triggered by various factors, including viral and bacterial infections, allergies, and exposure to irritants. Bacterial and viral conjunctivitis is contagious and often spreads while being in direct contact with an infected person's bodily fluids, usually through hand-to-eye contact. People in crowded areas, offices and children are most likely to get pink eye.

Why is there an outbreak in India this year?

There are several reasons. Incessant rains and flood situation in many parts of the country have led to poor hygiene. The high humidity is also a favourable factor for the spread of the disease. The main reason behind the outbreak is linked to a viral infection and that has been spreading rapidly across various regions in the country. The contagious nature of the virus, coupled with close human-to-human contact, has facilitated its rapid transmission. Also, after the covid-19 pandemic, the human body is seen to be more susceptible to various kinds of viral infection. Maintaining a good standard of hand hygiene is a must.

Are Indian scientists worried?

Scientists maintain that conjunctivitis is common in India and mostly seen during the rainy season. Even when it is easily transmitted, it is essential to note that conjunctivitis is typically self-resolving and rarely causes any permanent damage to the eye. Researchers at the National Institute of Virology (NIV-Pune) say that positive cases are largely coming from closed and compact places such as schools, colleges, households and offices. Meanwhile, NIV has collected samples to examine the trend of virus causing eye infection.

What are the symptoms and what to do about it?

Symptoms include redness, itch, pain, watery, puffy, tearing of the eyes. It can also lead to discharge or crusting around the eyes. It's important to stop wearing contact lenses while being affected by conjunctivitis. The infected should immediately see an ophthalmologist who could prescribe antibiotic eye drops, depending on severity of the symptoms. In most cases, the symptoms resolve in 5-7 days. People need to wash their hands regularly. While wearing sunglasses does not prevent the spread of infection, it may prevent a person from touching her/his eyes, a cause for spread of the disease.

What are drug regulators doing to curb the misuse of eye drops?

Due to increasing incidences of conjunctivitis cases, Indian state drug regulators have strictly advised the chemist associations to avoid sale of ophthalmic solutions or eye drops containing antibiotics or steroids in the absence of prescription from a registered medical practitioner. Eye drops refer to a wide range of lubricating eye products, which are often used to relieve dryness and irritation in eyes, and if not taken under the guidance of a doctor, can damage the eyes. Drug regulators have also asked the pharmacies to keep records of eye drop solution sales.

Catch all the Business News, Market News, Breaking News Events and Latest News Updates on Live Mint. Download The Mint News App to get Daily Market Updates.



Switch to the Mint app for fast and personalized news - Get App