Trachoma, an eye infection caused by the bacteria Chlamydia trachomatis serotypes A, B, Ba and C., continues to be the world’s leading cause of infectious, preventable blindness and the fifth leading cause of blindness. Australia is the only high‑income country where trachoma is still endemic. It occurs primarily in remote and very remote Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory (NT), South Australia (SA) and Western Australia (WA). In 2008, cases were also found in New South Wales (NSW) and Queensland (Qld), states where trachoma was believed to have been eliminated.In 2009, the Australian Government invested in the Closing the Gap ‑ Improving Eye and Ear Health Services for Indigenous Australians measure which included committing $16 million over a four‑year period towards eliminating trachoma in Australia. In 2013, the Australian Government committed a further $16.5 million to continue, improve and expand trachoma control initiatives in jurisdictions with known endemic levels of trachoma. Funding was also provided to jurisdictions with a previous history of trachoma for screening activities to ascertain if control programs were also required. These funds were also committed to establishing a strong framework for monitoring and evaluation.
The National Trachoma Surveillance and Reporting Unit (NTSRU) is responsible for data collation, analysis and reporting related to the ongoing evaluation of trachoma control strategies in Australia.
- Jurisdictions identified 150 communities as being at risk of trachoma. Of at risk communities, 90% (136/150) required screening and/or treatment for trachoma according to current guidelines, with 16% (25/150) requiring treatment but not screening.
- A total of 3,143 children aged 5–9 years in at risk communities were examined for trachoma.
- The overall prevalence of trachoma in children aged 5–9 years was 4.7%, with 0% in QLD, 2.8% in SA, 3.5% in WA and 6.1% in the NT.
- Trachoma treatment strategies were applied in 76 communities, 95% of those requiring treatment.
- Overall 10,318 adults aged 15 years and over were screened for trichiasis. It is acknowledged that the data provided may not include trichiasis screening undertaken as part of the Adult Health Check MBS Item 715 in WA and SA. The NTSRU will be working with the Department of Health to obtain these figures for future reports.