Wednesday October 16, 2019
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Vision Problems Affect 2.2 Billion People Worldwide, Warns WHO

According to WHO experts, the organization wants the document to serve as a guideline for the next decade

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The World Health Organization’s (WHO) first report on vision warns that the excessive time children spend indoors is linked to an increase in eye conditions such as myopia.

The report published on Tuesday has not linked these increasing problems directly to the use of smartphones or any other kind of screen, the Efe news reported.

The document, presented by Spanish doctor Alarcos Cieza, WHO coordinator of blindness and deafness prevention, revealed that 2.2 billion people around the world suffer from some kind of eye problem.

Ageing populations in many countries and inadequate access to ophthalmological care, especially in low-income countries, partly explain these numbers, but the increase has also been influenced by lifestyle changes like sedentarism.

“We must encourage children to spend more time outdoors, because this is not only associated with preventing obesity but also myopia,” Dr. Cieza told Efe.

However, neither she nor the report directly advised spending less time on computers, televisions, mobiles or other devices. The focus was put on “exercising more” and outdoor activities.

The report, Cieza said, was prepared as a response to the increase in the number of people with visual impairment, including those suffering from glaucoma, which nowadays affects 76 million people, a number that could increase to 95 million by 2030.

WHO also revealed that almost half of current vision problems could have been prevented and urged countries to include ophthalmological care within health care systems.

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Logo of World Health Organization (WHO). Wikimedia Commons

“It is unacceptable that 65 million people are blind or have impaired sight when their vision could have been corrected overnight with a cataract operation, or that over 800 million struggle in everyday activities because they lack access to a pair of glasses,” WHO director-general, Thedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said in a statement.

According to the organization, a $14.3 billion investment in ophthalmological care is needed, especially in middle and low-income countries, a move that would end avoidable eye problems that affect one in seven people around the world.

The report emphasizes that vision problems are four times more likely to happen in developing countries in comparison to richer nations.

It also said that blindness reaches rates up to eight times higher in poor regions of the world.

Eating habits are also a factor, since, in type 2 diabetes, the number of retinopathy cases increases.

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With age, the possibilities of eyesight worsening increase, but WHO warned that these should not be seen as irreparable old age problems.

“It is not necessary to accept the loss of vision as a natural consequence or part of the aging process, because with the appropriate treatment, there is no reason to develop a visual impairment,” Cieza said.

The report has been published ahead of World Vision Day on 10 October.

According to WHO experts, the organization wants the document to serve as a guideline for the next decade. (IANS)

Next Story

WHO Reports Progress in Containing Ebola Outbreak in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo

It is impossible to predict where the outbreak is going to go next, said Ryan.

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The executive Director of WHO Health Emergencies, Michael Ryan, says he is largely optimistic that aid workers are getting control of the Ebola outbreak in eastern Congo. VOA

The World Health Organization reports progress in containing the Ebola outbreak in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, but says many challenges to its elimination remain.  WHO reports the number of cases in the outbreak now stands at 3,207, including 2,144 deaths.

The executive Director of WHO Health Emergencies, Michael Ryan, says he is largely optimistic that aid workers are getting control of the Ebola outbreak in eastern Congo.  But, he says, it is impossible to say the outbreak is over.

“It is not.  It is impossible to predict where the outbreak is going to go next,” said Ryan. “But… I do–I would stand over the fact that we have significantly contained the virus in a much smaller geographic area.  Now we have to kill the virus.  The problem is, it is back in areas that are deeply insecure.”

In fact, the virus has come full circle.  Ryan notes the disease has moved from Butembo and other urban areas to the remote, rural town of Mangina, the epicenter of the outbreak.  He says the virus is back where it began when the Ebola outbreak was declared August 1, 2018.

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But, he says, it is impossible to say the outbreak is over. Pixabay

“So, essentially the virus is back in the same zone,” said Ryan. “So, the factors that allowed that virus to transmit at low intensity for a number of months, have not changed.  Deep insecurity, reticence amongst the population, distrust and many other factors continue to make this a very dangerous situation.  But a situation, for which I believe we are making significant progress at this time.”

Ryan says WHO is increasing the scale of its operation, engaging in active surveillance across North Kivu province and actively seeking new cases and tracing contacts to keep the virus from spreading.

He says more than 230,000 people have been vaccinated against the deadly disease and more lives are being saved among people infected with the virus who are coming to the treatment centers.

He says the fatality rate among the nearly 800 patients currently in Ebola treatment units is less than one third – a significantly better outcome than the two-thirds fatality rate reported for the disease overall.

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Still, this is the biggest Ebola outbreak in Africa since the epidemic across three West African countries in 2014 killed more than 11,000 people. (VOA)