What To Know About The ‘Super Strain’ Of Pink Eye Infecting Parts Of Texas

Reports of a new pink eye “superbug” plaguing a Texas city are boosting concerns about the irritating eye condition, especially with many children going back to school. Pink eye is just one of those problems families try desperately to avoid!

Why? Pink eye is inconvenient, it’s highly contagious and it lasts longer than a couple of days. More recently, it appears some cases of pink eye — or conjunctivitis  can be even worse than we thought.

Several doctors from the Houston, Texas, area are warning residents about a new, more aggressive strain of pink eye that’s difficult to treat. This pink eye “superbug” lasts up to three weeks, as opposed to about 10 days for the more common strain.

eye doctor photo
Getty Images | Scott Olson

Dr. James Berg with the Lehmann Eye Center told KTRE that he is seeing an uptick in patients with these more serious cases of pink eye. He said with summertime travel, the strain could make its way through East Texas.

“It’s able to evade the normal defense systems that our own bodies have, and medications; that’s what’s making this new strain the superbug somewhat unique to us,” Berg told KTRE.

Another Houston doctor said he went from seeing one or two pink eye cases per month to as many as four patients a day! Dr. Allan Panzer said the treatment options for this stubborn strain are limited.

“Viruses are too small and too resistant for antibiotics,” Panzer told FOX 26 Houston. “Antibiotics are named because they’re for antibacterial, not anti-viral.”

The cases in this recent spike are of viral pink eye, not bacterial, but both are contagious according to the Mayo Clinic.

Could This Strain Get To You?

At the moment, there are no signs of a nationwide outbreak. One Memphis, Tennessee, optometrist, Dr. Chris Lievens, said there’s no evidence of the strain where he treats his patients.

“The truth is that a lot of viruses are already superbugs and very difficult to treat,” Lievens told WMC Action News 5. “And we really don’t have a whole lot of treatments specifically for them — for many viruses that affect us.”

The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control reports that there are no active investigations into outbreaks or clusters of conjunctivitis in that state.


How To Prevent Pink Eye

If you are traveling — or sending the kids back to school — you always want to take preventative measures against any strain of pink eye.

Here are some quick facts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

  • The four main causes of pink eye are viruses, bacteria, allergens and irritants (like chlorine in a swimming pool).
  • Symptoms include redness, itchiness or burning and crustiness around the eyelids or lashes.
  • Most cases of pink eye get better on their own or are easily treated with medication. In severe cases, it’s important to see a doctor right away.

It is fairly simple to prevent pink eye and keep it from spreading. Plus, these tips can be applied to other run-of-the-mill illnesses like the common cold:

  • Wash your hands!
  • Avoid touching your eyes (this is how you keep pink eye from jumping from one eye to the other).
  • Avoid sharing makeup and don’t use makeup products you may have used after being diagnosed with pink eye.
  • Take care of your contact lenses.
  • After someone in your home gets pink eye, wash all sheets and pillowcases in hot water.
  • Don’t share towels and avoid reusing dirty towels.
  • Just in case you missed it: Wash your hands!