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New figures released in a report that investigates trachoma prevalence in the Northern Territory (NT), show a more than threefold decrease of the disease in NT children over three years old.
The Australian trachoma surveillance report, issued by the University of NSW’s Kirby Institute, shows that in 2009, 14% of children aged five to nine in screened communities had trachoma. By 2012, the rates for the same age group were 4%, with the report concluding that 'Australia remains on course to eliminate trachoma by 2020.'
The disease is endemic in remote areas where poor hygiene, sanitation and mobile populations result in continual reinfection. Among the keys to battling the disease are the widespread use of azithromycin, a single dose antibiotic, and a community-based workers scheme funded by the Fred Hollows Foundation. The Foundation plans to increase the number of community workers over the next four years from eight to about 30. The workers are used to alleviate fears about the antibiotic and promote the need for good personal hygiene.
Gabrielle Watt, the Trachoma program co-ordinator at the Northern Territory Department of Health, said despite the success, there's still a long way to go to achieve elimination. 'In order to see trachoma rates stay down over the longer term, we need to stop trachoma transmission by educating people in remote communities about hygiene practices that prevent the spread of trachoma.'
At the local childcare centre at Ntaria, also known as Hermannsburg, 130km west of Alice Springs, mothers and children are learning about good hygiene. Thelma Moketarinja, 24, a community-based worker, teaches the Clean faces strong eyes initiative. She wants the next generation to be free from the diseases which have afflicted so many remote Indigenous communities.
Source: The Australian