Ophthalmology departments a hotbed for conjunctivitis

Viral conjunctivitis infections occurred in some 80 percent of university hospitals with ophthalmology departments over a 10-year period to 2002, according to a study by a group of researchers.

Such infections occurred at 49 of 62 facilities that responded to a survey of all 93 Japanese university hospitals with an ophthalmology section.

“There are many patients at university hospitals. Measures to prevent infections are urgently needed,” said Yoshitsugu Tagawa, a member of the research group and an assistant professor of ophthalmology at the Hokkaido University medical school.

Of the 49 hospitals, 13 had 30 patients or more infected, while 16 hospitals were temporarily forced to have all ophthalmology inpatients leave the facility due to the infections.

In most cases the infections occurred through medical devices, but medical staff were among those infected in 60 percent of the 49 hospitals, suggesting that the staff may have spread the infections, the researchers said.

In all cases in the survey, the conjunctivitis was caused by adenovirus, which is the cause of swimming pool conjunctivitis and causes pneumonia, respiratory inflammation and gastroenteritis.

Conjunctivitis from adenovirus is highly contagious and transmits through contact with patients and via saliva or mucus. There is no remedy for the disease, but it usually resolves itself in two to three weeks.