Mexico just became the first nation in the Americas to eliminate the eye disease trachoma as a public health problem. Public health officials around the world are now praising the North American nation's success.
The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), which is officially a part of the UN's World Health Organization (WHO), publicly announced this news about a week ago.
For those who don't know, trachoma is an eye disease that spreads via microorganisms. If left untreated, the disease could cause eye scarring and even blindness. There is no cure for blindness due to trachoma as of today. The disease often travels by flies that have been in contact with an infected person's eye or nose fluids. Unfortunately, the disease is still prevalent in many developing parts of the world and often affects children.
Carissa F. Etienne, the current director of PAHO, said that Mexico's trachoma prevention initiative should be considered a "historic moment" not only for Mexico, but also for all the Americas as a whole. She hopes other developing nations in Central and South America will learn from Mexico's strategies to combat trachoma in their own countries.
Mexican officials worked closely with the WHO SAFE strategy to effectively reduce the spread of trachoma. They also created a Trachoma Prevention and Control Program as a part of the Ministry of Health of Chiapas.
Mexico's Trachoma Prevention Program would send out "Trachoma Brigades" to the most vulnerable communities in the nation. "Trachoma Brigade" workers would teach local communities all about the importance of hygiene and give them any medicines or cleaning supplies they needed.
Teachers employed in Mexico's education system were also required to spread information about hygiene to parents. Soon, everyone in the nation became familiar with the Trachoma Prevention Program's slogan, "With water, soap and cleanliness you can prevent trachoma."
The WHO now estimates that 41 countries around the world are affected by trachoma. Unsurprisingly, trachoma tends to be more prevalent in rural areas without access to high-quality medical facilities. The three main countries in the Americas suffering from high levels of trachoma include Colombia, Guatemala, and Brazil.
While Mexico holds the distinction of the first nation in the Americas to halt the progression of trachoma, it's not the first developing nation in the world to achieve this goal. Both Oman and Morocco eliminated the eye disease as a public health issue just a few years ago.
Before working with the WHO SAFE program, Mexico had over 146,000 cases of trachoma. Today, less than five percent of children between the ages of 1-9 have the disease. This statistic is in line with the WHO's criteria for a country free from a trachoma public health problem.
Trachoma is caused by the bacterium known as Chlamydia trachomatis. Currently, 182 million people live with trachoma, 1.9 million of which are blind. Africa is the most affected continent right now with around 27 countries that have serious trachoma public health problems. A few countries working hard to eliminate trachoma as a public health problem include China, Myanmar, Iran, and Ghana.