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Why is trachoma blinding Aboriginal children when mainstream Australia eliminated it 100 years ago?

Hugh Taylor and colleagues write in The Conversation (14.9.16) about the alarming incidence of trachoma eye disease among Indigenous children, and what can be done to reduce or eliminate the infection rate such as has been achieved with young non-Indigenous Australians.

'Many people don’t know this, but Indigenous Australian children are born with much better eyesight than non-Indigenous children.

'Yet, at the population level, Indigenous people at the age of 40 have rates of vision loss three times that of non-Indigenous Australians. Rates of blindness are six times higher among Indigenous adults.

'The prevalence of vision problems in Indigenous people is a result of cataracts, diabetic eye disease and a disease non-Indigenous children don’t get – trachoma. In fact, trachoma disappeared from mainstream Australia more than 100 years ago with improved hygiene facilities, water infrastructure and living conditions.

'Yet, in some areas, 4% of Indigenous children aged from five to nine years old have an active trachoma infection. In the Northern Territory, that rate is 5%, which is considered an endemic level.'

 

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