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Rare Nepal-specific eye disease could lead to blindness: Medics

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  • Rare Nepal-specific eye disease could lead to blindness: Medics


    Rare Nepal-specific eye disease could lead to blindness: Medics


    * The eye becomes red as in conjunctivitis but without sticky secretion
    * Patients find difficulty in even opening eyes in light and a white spot appears in the black part of the eye
    * Can lead to blindness if not treated within 48 hours
    * Is believed to be caused due to contact with white tussock moth
    * Children should not be allowed to go near this nocturnal moth that is attracted to bright light and even adults should stay away

    KATHMANDU, Sept 12: Has your child´s eye become red as in conjunctivitis but doesn´t secrete sticky substance? Does the child have extreme difficulty in looking at light? Does the eye have a white spot in the middle of the black spot?

    If so, chances are the child is suffering from Seasonal Hyperacute Panuveitis (SHAPU) and should immediately be taken to an eye hospital.

    This peculiar kind of eye infection unique to Nepal is very dangerous and any delay in treatment can lead to blindness. “This disease is extremely dangerous and can harm eyes within hours,” warns Medical Director at the Tilganga Institute of Ophthalmology Dr Sanduk Ruit.

    There are many peculiarities of this disease that have been reported only in Nepal. “It is reported every two years (odd year in Gregorian calendar and even year in Nepali calendar) from September to December and infects only one eye, mostly the right eye,” says Dr Anu Manandhar, uveitis specialist at Tilganga.

    Records show six SHAPU patients had come to Tilganga in 2005 and 18 in 2007. But this year the number has already gone up to 24 after the first case seen on August 23.

    The disease, first seen in 1975 and named SHAPU by Dr Madan Prasad Upadhyaya, used to be reported from Kaski district initially but has spread to various districts now. Majority of the patients this year are from Dolakha district while others are from Sarlahi, Rolpa and Dailekh. Three patients this year are from Kathmandu Valley. Nepal Eye Hospital, Tripureshwar has also reported six SHAPU cases in the past few weeks.

    “The fluid used to show bacteria previously but in 2005 and 2007 we also found virus. This year also both bacteria and virus have been found in the eyes of the patients,” states Dr Manandhar.

    Cause of the disease

    The cause of the disease is yet to be confirmed but doctors believe it to be caused by seto putali (white tussock moth). “Most of the cases this year and even previous years have shown history of moth contact or moth in the environment. We have even found hairs in eyes of a few patients this year,” Dr Manandhar says.

    Most of the infected patients this year are below 10 years with the youngest being 11 months and only one is a 66-year-old. “We feel the children, who tend to play with this moth get infected,” Dr Manandhar reasons.

    The nocturnal moth can be seen around bright light and doctors suggest people to beware of such white moths and prevent children from playing with them.

    Published on 2009-09-12 16:50:22