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Saturday, Sept. 20, 2014

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Conjunctivitis update, March 22

With many students away from the Princeton campus for spring break, the outbreak of conjunctivitis appeared to have taken a break as well. No new patients were treated on Wednesday and Thursday, March 20-21, for the disease that is commonly known as "pink eye." However, health services officials still urge students to follow tips for prevention .

Between Feb. 1 and March 21, 289 patients were treated for conjunctivitis, according to Dr. Pamela Bowen, health services director. Those affected include students from all four undergraduate classes and a small number of graduate students.

"It's possible that the number of cases may have slowed because of spring break, in part because students are not spreading it to each other right now," Bowen said.

"The majority of the conjunctivitis cases appear to have occurred the last week of February through the first week of March," said Dr. Tina Tan of the Centers for Disease Control and the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services. "But in terms of trends, next week it may be a different story when the students come back."

Conjunctivitis is an inflammation of the conjunctiva, the clear mucous membrane that covers the white part of the eyeball and the inside of the eyelid. It is most often caused by a bacterial or viral infection, or an allergic reaction. The inflammation of conjunctivitis makes it an irritating condition but it is usually harmless to sight.

Physicians at University Health Services have been working with officials from the Centers for Disease Control and state and local health agencies to learn more about the outbreak and to try to stop its spread. Five out of 11 cultures taken from some of the affected Princeton students grew a bacterial isolate of streptococcus pneumoniae, Tan said, but this result does not indicate whether the other patients have the bacterial or viral type of conjunctivitis -- or both.

Health officials are also trying to determine whether the illness is related to a similar outbreak at Dartmouth College, but so far there is no solid connection.

Conjunctivitis is extremely contagious, and it is important to seek diagnosis and treatment. Click here to view the symptoms and tips for prevention and self-care. The information also is posted in living areas across campus, as well as at Dillon Gymnasium and the Frist Campus Center.

Campus community members who experience symptoms should contact health services at 258-3141 or 258-3139.

Contact: Marilyn Marks (609) 258-3601

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