In the year 2020, humanity is called to face a challenge called SARS-CoV-2 (Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2) or COVID-19. Extreme measures are taken worldwide to limit this new virus to its maximum and scientists around the globe come together, in order to find the vaccine that will relief the global community.
Scientists have issued multiple guides and advice as to how one can protect himself, not only from this specific virus but also generally from all sorts of contagious infections. Advice to be extremely careful with our personal hygiene, to avoid crowded places, to stop all sorts of intimate contact (i.e., handshakes, kissing) and among the guidelines there is one, that attention is not paid to its maximum, which is to keep our eyes protected.
Is It Possible to Get Infected Through Our Eyes?
Yes, it is possible that you be infected with a virus, if you do not keep your eyes protected as per CDC’s guides. This is because viruses are contagious through human fluids (i.e.: saliva, sweat).
COVID-19 is a virus with symptoms very common to the flu. Symptoms like cough, high fever and breathing difficulties, along with mild to acute respiratory illness as per WHO (World Health Organization).
If for example, someone that is infected or unknowingly carries the virus, coughs, speaks or sneezes next to you, infectious droplets could enter your system through your eyes without even knowing this occurred.
- Wuhan city in Hubei province of China is the center of where the virus started. Medical studies that were contacted all over China, showed that an infection of the eyes, called “Conjunctivitis” or red / pink eye, might be a symptom of COVID-19, as per the publication of the results, in the “New England Journal Of Medicine”. The research revealed that 9 out of the 1099 patients diagnosed with COVID-19, also suffered with conjunctivitis.
- Wang Guangfa, is the head of the Department of Pulmonary Medicine at Beijing’s Peking University First Hospital. The Chinese doctor is considered to be, one of China’s heroes during SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) outbreak in 2003. When visited Wuhan, in beginning of January 2020, he came down with the virus himself, most probably as he said, due to the lack of protective eye equipment.
- AAO (American Academy of Ophthalmology) acknowledges the scenario of COVID-19 transmission when eyes are exposed without protection, to the virus. Specifically, they inform through their online site, the following (and we quote):
– Several reports suggest the virus can cause conjunctivitis and possibly be transmitted by aerosol contact with conjunctiva.
– Patients who go to ophthalmologists with conjunctivitis symptoms and also have fever and respiratory symptoms, such as cough and / or shortness of breath, and have recently traveled internationally, particularly to areas with known outbreaks (China, Iran, Italy and South Korea, or to hotspots within the United States), or with family members recently back from one of these areas, should be considered as of extremely high risk for COVID-19.
– The Academy and federal officials recommend protection for the mouth, nose and eyes when caring for patients potentially infected with SARS-CoV-2.
How Can We Protect Ourselves?
Given all the above, scientists advise that we protect and care for our eyes, the same way we take other precautions such as frequent wash of our hands, or sneezing in the inside part of our elbow if at the time we don’t have a tissue.
Eyeglasses, sunglasses and goggles are ways of protecting your eyes from a significant amount of splatters or droplets entering your system through your eyes. It is recommended both by AAO and by CDC, that you use glasses that will cover the external corners of the eyes. Safety goggles, Ski goggles even shield sunglasses are very good choices in case you do not have access to proper medical eyewear.
Additionally, it is advised that in case you wear contact lenses, you switch to wearing eyeglasses for a short period, since contact lenses, do not cover the entire surface of the eyes, thus you remain exposed to COVID-19 and other infections.
We cannot deny the fact that we are all experiencing the effects of this pandemic, some even more than others, and that our daily routine has changed dramatically. What we need to point out though, is that humanity always finds the way to pull through and adjust to new data. Personal hygiene and other safety measures such as masks and protective eyeglasses are guidelines that are given by the experts, as means to protect ourselves from all sorts of viruses, including COVID-19 and such advice should always be taken into great consideration.