The V.I. Department of Health warned Friday that an outbreak of epidemic keratoconjunctivitis, also known as EKC, has been identified in the St. Thomas district.
EKC is an acute eye infection that can cause corneal scarring, according to Health. The American Academy of Ophthalmology called it "a highly contagious viral infection of the eye," which is known as "pink eye." Symptoms can last up to two weeks or more.
The Department of Health was notified by a St. Thomas ophthalmology practice that 30 patients have been diagnosed with a probable case of epidemic keratoconjunctivitis. Health is waiting for lab results to confirm the diagnosis of these patients.
– A feeling that something is in the eye;
– Redness, irritation and itchiness of the eyes ("pink eye");
– Swelling of the eyelids;
– Sensitivity to light;
– Clear or yellow drainage that may make the eyelids stick together;
– Blurred vision;
– Eye pain.
"EKC is very contagious and children should stay home from school until symptoms are gone or until cleared by a doctor," Health said in its Friday statement. Health care workers should be cleared by a health care provider prior to returning to work.
The department offered the following suggestions for people who have EKC:
– Avoid touching your eyes whenever possible. If you do touch your eyes, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and running water;
– Avoid touching other people unless your hands are freshly washed;
– Avoid hugging or kissing with close face-to-face contact during an EKC outbreak;
– Dispose of or carefully wash items (hot water and detergent) that touch your eyes;
– Do not share eye makeup or other items used on the eyes (towels, tissues, eye drops, eye medications);
– Use a separate towel and face cloth for each member of the household;
– Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing;
– Use disposable tissues to blow your nose, sneeze or cough.
If you visit a clinic for eye symptoms, tell them that your child’s school recently had an episode of EKC so they prevent spread of infection within the clinic.
The department urged anyone who suspects a case of EKC to contact Dr. Esther Ellis at 340-718-1311 ext. 3841.