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Ongoing outbreak of rare eye infection found among contact lens wearers – The Informer




An ongoing outbreak of a rare eye infection has been discovered in contact lens wearers in the UK, a new study reveals.

Researchers at University College London found that rates of Acanthamoeba keratitis, an infection of the cornea, have nearly tripled since 2011 in the southeast of England.

Infection with Acanthamoeba, a cyst-forming microorganism, causes an inflammation of the cornea. Symptoms include excessive pain and compromised vision.

The disease is mostly preventable, said Dr. John Dart, a consultant ophthalmologist at Moorfields Eye Hospital who led the research.

“It was clear that there is a problem,” he said. “Acanthamoeba keratitis is one of the worst corneal infections.”

Studies suggest that about 2 in 100,000 contact lens wearers in the UK are affected each year, aided by the way water is stored and supplied there, according to Moorfields Eye Hospital, meaning case numbers are higher in the UK than in other parts of the world.

In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates occurrence at one or two cases in every million lens wearers; 85% of cases will occur in lens wearers.

The new study identified a surge in the UK.

Dart’s team analyzed incidence data collected by Moorfields, where cases across the southeast of England are treated, and found an average of 50.3 cases of Acanthamoeba keratitis per year between 2011 and 2016, up from an average of 18.5 in prior years, between outbreaks.

“Acanthamoeba keratitis is a rare infection, but when it occurs, it has a devastating effect for a long period of time on the patient’s life,” Dart said.

“Only 70% of patients were cured within 12 months. For the remaining 30%, the treatment took over a year.”

The researchers say their findings apply across the UK, given that Moorfields Eye Hospital treats more than 35% of the country’s cases.

Acanthamoeba keratitis is 20 times less likely than bacterial infections among contact lens wearers. Severe occurrences take up to 10 months to treat with antiseptic eye drops followed by 38 months of followup visits, according to the new study.

The most severe cases also lead to a permanent 75% decrease in vision because of scarring of the cornea, with a quarter of patients requiring corneal transplants, Dart said.

He explained that corneal transplant surgeries are sometimes necessary to treat holes in patients’ eyes due to ulcers caused by the infection or to restore vision.

Irenie Ekkeshis, a 39-year-old daily disposable contact lens wearer, was diagnosed with Acanthamoeba keratitis in 2011, despite strict lens hygiene.

She remembers waking one morning in January that year with horrific pain and a sore eye “that was very sensitive to bright light.” The pain worsened over time, and Ekkeshis knew that something was “very wrong” with her eye.

Her treatment took three years because the standard treatment with antiseptic eye drops was not effective. She had to undergo several other procedures, including two corneal transplant surgeries, she said.

Dr. Frank Larkin, senior lecturer at the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology and Imperial College School of Medicine, said current treatments are “not good enough.”


“The Acanthamoeba organism is very resistant to drugs, which is the main reason some patients’ treatments take such a long time,” said Larkin, who was not involved in the new study.

Almost eight years after her diagnosis, Ekkeshis regularly visits Moorfields because of problems linked to her cornea transplant.

She now campaigns to increase awareness of the infection, specifically advocating for a written warning on contact lens packaging on the importance of avoiding their contamination with water — one way to prevent the infection.

Ninety percent of Acanthamoeba keratitis cases in the UK are discovered in contact lens wearers, due to most risk factors being related to lens hygiene, Dart said.

The infection is most commonly found in hard-water areas, where lime scale allows for an optimal environment for the Acanthamoeba microorganism to grow.

A separate analysis in the study on more than 270 people who use reusable contact lenses found that the risk of developing the disease was more than three times higher among those with poor contact lens hygiene, people who did not always wash and dry their hands before handling their lenses, those who used disinfectant products containing Oxipol (now phased out by the manufacturer), and people who wore their lenses in swimming pools or hot tubs.

Showering and face-washing while wearing contact lenses are also likely to be risk factors, the study found.

“There is an increased risk with a particular disinfectant, Oxipol, and it is good news that the manufacturer has phased it out,” said Dr. Ravi Goel, a US ophthalmologist and spokesman for the American Academy of Ophthalmology, who was not involved in the new study.

“Any infection related to contact lens use is serious. [This] is a rare form of infection, so we need to raise our patients’ awareness.”

“You cannot point at just one risk factor. … That is the most important part of the study.”

Dart advises contact users to buy daily disposable contacts or else ensure that lenses and their containers are not contaminated by tap water.

Larkin thinks “contact lens wearers should be concerned.”

“There has been a gradual and large increase in AK in contact lens wearers, despite more people are using disposable contact lenses, which carry a lower risk of the infection.”

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Uhuru wa biashara, Suluhu ya vikwazo: How Kenya-Tanzania trade will be streamlined




President Uhuru Kenyatta with his Tanzania counterpart Samia Suluhu, who is on a two-day state visit in Kenya.[PSCU]

President Uhuru Kenyatta says ministers from both Kenya and Tanzania should resolve all non-tariff barriers and other restrictions affecting the two countries within four months.
Uhuru, on Wednesday said going forward, there will be no business visa or work permits for Tanzanian wishing to do business in the country.
“You are free to come and trade here in Kenya, there will be no business visas or work permits as long as you abide by the laws of the land,” he said.
Uhuru was speaking during the Kenya-Tanzania Investment Forum at Serena hotel. The forum was in line with President Samia Suluhu’s two-day state visit.
Kenya has about 513 companies doing business in Tanzania compared to Tanzania’s 30 in Nairobi.
Uhuru said in the next two weeks, concerned ministers from both sides should clear all the traffic jams at the Taveta and Namanga border points.
Uhuru said they should pay a special focus to the issuance of Covid-19 certificates to ease the movement of  transit cargo.
“I direct that all the maize lying at the border be cleared in two weeks. We cannot subject businesses to more suffering,” Uhuru said.

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Uhuru urged the ministers to move swiftly and ensure the ease of doing business at the border pointswas decisively tackled.
“It is not about wearing suits and meeting over tea.Get to the ground and understand what is affecting those traders. Don’t just sit in those offices. If you need to consult, do it and get the work done,” he said.
Uhuru’s sentiments came shortly after the Kenya Business Community nsaid it was ready to trade with the Tanzanian business community.
Led by the Kenya National Chamber of Commerce (KNCC), the community proposed the formulation of a Joint Business Council that will support the two countries.
KNCC President Fred Ngatia said the council would play a key role in addressing issues that bedevil  Nairobi-Dar trade,
The community said there should be policy forums and investment-focused events that will target small-scale enterprises.
“We are going to focus more on economic projects by identifying favourable financing institutions that will help us settle some of the commercial disputes affecting our community,” Ngatia said.
He said this will be made possible through the Public-Private Partnerships offered by the government.
As a result, KNCC in partnership with the Tanzania Chamber of Commerce will host a trade and investment exhibition in Dar es Salaam this August aiming to help SMEs unlock their potential.
So far Trade and Agriculture ministers from the two sides have had a breakfast meeting and agreed to initiate bilateral discussion before the end of the month.
Trade CS Betty Maina said the discussions aim to iron out all issues that have been hampering trade between the two countries.
This includes issues surrounding maize import.
President Samia Suluhu said her government was ready to serve as a bridge to pave way for businesses between the two countries to thrive.
“It is not about competing and complicating things, but about developing business relationships to allow both parties to explore opportunities,” she said.
Suluhu said while Tanzania is rich with natural resources and tourist attractions, Kenya is thriving in the ICT world and thus the need for exchange of skills on research and development.
“Muna bahati sana maanake upande mmoja mnao Uhuru wa kufanya biashara na upande mwingine Suluhu la kuondoa vikwazo,” Suluhu said.


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Kenya and Tanzania agree to iron out trade barriers




President Uhuru Kenyatta (PHOTO: PSCU)

NAIROBI, KENYA: A business forum held on Wednesday between Kenya and Tanzania agreed to iron out challenges constraining business between the neighbouring countries.
President Uhuru Kenyatta and Tanzania counterpart Samia Suluhu Hassan during the forum noted that trade opportunities between the two countries have not been fully exploited. Trade volume between the two countries was valued at Sh60.4 billion in 2012 and Sh47.5b, Sh45.6billion and Sh47.5 billion in 2016, 2017 and 2018 respectively.In 2020, President Uhuru Kenyatta noted that the volume was valued at Sh50 billion.
“Trade between the two countries has thrived over the past due to robust private sector, entrepreneurial citizen among other factors, however from the volumes we have not exploited the opportunities to full capacity,” he said.
“There is an urgent need for cooperation between the two countries to iron out issues hindering the growth of trade,” he added.
He noted that the economies need to drop unhealthy competition which he said work against investment in the two neighbouring countries.
The President also directed responsible government officials to meet within this week or the week after to iron out issues around the Covid-19 certificate. He also directed CS Agriculture and Livestock Peter Munya to allow maize to be cleared at the border.
Reading from the same script, his counterpart Suluhu Hassan noted that real development between the two countries can get better if they develop together.
“We need to work on a conducive environment by creating efficient courts, harmonize tax regimes, work on the investment climate and better legislation,” she said. She noted that Kenya can benefit from Tanzania’s rich mineral sector while Tanzania can borrow from Kenya’s thriving technology sector.


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The private sector represented by the East African Business Council noted the decline in intra EAC trade is due to several barriers to trade, investment and movement of persons. Intra-EAC trade currently stands at below 20 per cent vis a vis SADC at 48 per cent and European Union at 70 per cent.
“There’s a need to embrace digitalization particularly in moving goods and services across the EA region and harmonizing the tax regimes, we need to also strengthen the East African Secretariat,” said Nick Nesbit, Chairman of East African Business Council.
He also underscored the need to promote value addition in manufacturing and diversification of our products and the elimination of Non-Tariff Barriers, which will go a long way towards increasing intra-EAC trade from the current below 20 per cent.
Ministers from the two countries are expected to meet before the end of the month to iron out issues affecting trade between the two countries.

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Delayed Sh70 billion to counties hampering COVID war: Wambora » Capital News




NAIROBI, Kenya, May 5- The Council of Governors has decried their inability to fight the COVID-19 pandeic due to lack of finances from the national government.

The Council’s Chairperson Martin Wambora said the National Treasury is yet to release Sh70.2 billion owed to the counties, despite the clock ticking to the end of the financial year on June 30.

“Last week I reported that the total outstanding amount owed to County Governments is Sh70.2 billion. Despite having only one month left to the end of the financial year, the National Treasury is yet to disburse this outstanding amount to Counties,” he told a news conference on Tuesday.

He said the delay has “compromised response measures towards the COVID-19 pandemic and service delivery to members of the public.”

Some counties are yet to pay staff salaries for more than three months.

On the shortage of HIV and AIDS commodities, Wambora said Counties with high stock are now considering redistributing them to those with low stocks.


He said the Council of Governors will engage the Ministry of Health to fast-track the release of the pending products for HIV/AIDS stuck at the Mombasa port.

Further, he said, County Governments will prioritize a long-term solution in financing HIV, TB and Malaria response through domestic financing and increased Government resources to the programs.

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Wambora further welcomed President Uhuru Kenyatta’s decision to lift a lockdown on five Counties declared disease zones in March, saying it will allow businesses to thrive.

Nairobi, Kiambu, Kajiado, Machakos and Nakuru were on a partial lockdown until May 1 when President Kenyatta revised the night curfew to start at 10 pm to 4 am from the earlier 8pm.

He however, urged Kenyans to remain cautious since the threat of COVID-19 was still real.

On waste management, Wambora decried an influx of medical waste, particularly used PPE kits which are disposed in the dumpsites.

He noted that “this is hazardous waste should be treated in hospitals and disposed in a safer manner in order to prevent further transmission of the virus.”

“To address the issue, County governments have strengthened enforcement through County Environmental Inspectors to ensure integrated waste management systems are adhered to thereby limiting waste influx in undesignated areas and landfills, he said.

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