Conjunctivitis Contagious Epidemic Harmattan HEALTH AND SAFETY Personal hygiene

Acute Haemorrhagic Conjunctivitis (Apollo)

Harmattan is here again! It is associated with dust-bearing land-wind. The dust-bearing nature of this season puts large quantity of dust particle into the atmosphere which goes into the eyes, thereby making the individual to rub the

eyes. Today, we have Dr Anyika Fidelis, a Consultant Ophthalmic Surgeon to tell us more about how to care for our eyes.

One of the eye conditions that can present anytime and anywhere, but is commonly found during harmattan is an acute inflammation of conjunctiva (transparent membrane covering the white part of the eyeball). It is characterized by multiple conjunctiva hemorrhages and hyperemia (redness of the eye).
The disease is caused by picornavirus (enterovirus type 70) which are RNA viruses of small(pico) size. The disease is very contagious and is transmitted by direct hand-to-eye contact.
Clinical Picture
The disease has occurred in an epidemic form in the Far East, Africa and England and hence the name ‘Epidemic Haemorrhagic Conjunctivitis (EHC)’ has been suggested. An epidemic of the disease was first recognized in Ghana in 1969 at the time when Apollo XI spacecraft was launched, hence the name ‘Apollo conjunctivitis’.
Incubation period of EHC is very short (1-2 days).
Symptoms of Apollo (How Will the Person Present)
Watery discharge
Mild photophobia (fear of light) or light sensitivity
Transient blurring of vision (due to the discharge)
Lid swelling
Feeling of grittiness or burning sensation
Signs (What the Doctor Sees on Examination)
Conjunctival congestion
Chemosis(edema of the conjunctiva)
Lid edema
Pre-auricular lymphadenopathy.
Corneal involvement may occur in the form of fine punctuate epithelial keratitis
How to Avoid Coming Down With Apollo
  • Affected persons should stay away from non affected persons as much as possible to prevent spreading of the disease.
  • It is recommended that affected persons should stay away from school or work until the condition resolves.
  • Frequent hand washing, personal hygiene and to avoid rubbing the eyes with unclean hands should prevent the disease.
  • People should desist from sharing towels, beddings and other items with affected persons.
  • Use of handkerchief to clean the face should be discouraged during Apollo epidemic as it serves as formite.
  • Use the knuckle of the hand to itch if you have need to rub your eyes. That way you are not poking your eyes with the fingers.
  • Use of spectacle helps protect the eyes from dust which would necessitate rubbing the eyes.


EHC is very infectious and poses major potential problems of cross-infection. Therefore, prophylactic measures are very important. No specific effective curative treatment is known. However, artificial tears and broad spectrum antibiotic eye drops may be used to prevent secondary bacterial super-infections. Usually the disease has a self-limiting course of 5-7 days. It is advised against the use of steroids eye drops and affected persons to report immediately to an eye care worker for appropriate treatment.

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