The drug administration began in three districts on Monday and is set to end on February 23. Blinding trachoma is an infectious disease caused by a bacterium which causes the roughening of the inner surface of the eyelids. The roughening can lead to blindness.
Health and Child Care Minister Dr David Parirenyatwa said the programme is targeting both children and adults.
“Everyone living in endemic districts where the disease has been found to be prevalent will be treated. The Ministry went into 16 districts to map the distribution of blinding trachoma in Zimbabwe and out of these 11 were found to be endemic with Lupane, Centenary and Gokwe South having the highest prevalence,’ said Dr Parirenyatwa.
He said people will receive an oral antibiotic called zithromax which will help to clear an infection of the eye that causes blindness.
“These three districts will need three rounds of treatment with this effective antibiotic called Zithromax. The programme will target about 500 000 people living in these three districts. Other seven districts will be treated once medicines are made available later in 2018,” said Dr Parirenyatwa.
He said they will later evaluate 20 more districts where they suspect the disease is prevalent and future mapping will be considered on the endemic neighbouring/adjacent districts.
Blinding trachoma can spread from one person to another through direct contact with eye secretions of an infected person either through flies, sharing of face towels, poor hygiene and not washing your face with clean safe water and soap.
Repeated infections of the eye will lead to scarring of the inner part of the upper eye lid leading to eye lashes cutting into the eye globe. If this is not reversed through the use of antibiotics or surgery, blindness will follow.
Late last year, Government also embarked on another mass drug administration programme targeting both children and adults as part of efforts to fight neglected tropical diseases.
During that time, the Bulawayo City Council urged people to participate in the programme after a study showed that 15 percent of residents in the city, especially school going children, are at risk of contracting bilharzia, elephantiasis and soil transmitted helminthiasis, among others. In 2016, the country also conducted a one week immunisation programme against measles and rubella in children.