COVID-19 outbreak has brought most countries of the world to a standstill. The viral infection has claimed about 40 thousand lives and the number of infected people is approaching 1 million. It has been declared as a pandemic by the World Health Organization and also by the governments of several major countries including India.
It is known to spread through touch or ingestion and there is no COVID-19 specific vaccine or drug available at present. Hence, precautions and social distancing are necessary to keep ourselves safe from this disease.
COVID-19 or the Novel Coronavirus was first reported in December 2019 from Wuhan, China. Despite the rapid spread and high number of fatalities caused by this virus so far, it is a group of viruses that usually cause minor ailments like common cold and fever etc.
However, in more advanced cases, COVID-19 can cause bronchitis, pneumonia, kidney or lung failure and such severe cases can be life-threatening.
The chances of Coronavirus infection through eyes are very low. However, such instances have been reported. COVID-19 advisories strongly emphasize on not touching our face especially eyes, nose or mouth.
Unlike a flu virus, the COVID-19 virus has a droplet spread making it possible the virus to move from an infected person to a non-infected person through eyes as well.
Pink eye or red eye is a form of eye infection caused by a virus called adenovirus. Similar to the Coronavirus, adenovirus is also a droplet infection. That’s why a simple pink eye or red eye infection can be mistaken as a COVID-19 symptom.
Since the Coronavirus infection is prevalent these days, you should consult a general practitioner to ascertain whether your eye condition is symptomatic of COVID-19 or a normal case of Conjunctivitis or red/pink eye.
Human eyes are susceptible to droplet infections caused by the Coronavirus. During the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, a Chinese professor from Peking University reported that he might have contracted the infection through his eyes after coming in contact with an infected patient.
To avoid any such risk to your eyes, there are certain precautions that you need to strongly adhere to:
1. Wash your hands frequently with soap or an alcohol based sanitizer. An average human touches his/her face up to 2000 times a day. Hence, non-sanitized hands pose a great risk to the eyes. Don’t rub your eyes if you feel itchy.
2. Wear prescription glasses/goggles or a face mask: By wearing glasses, you would be able to offer a basic protection to your eyes as it would prevent habitual touching of eyes. In case you need to go outdoors or work in an high-risk environment like a healthcare facility, you must wear a protective face mask along with the glasses.
3. In case you experience wet and weepy eyes, eye irritation or symptoms like red/pink eyes, visit an eye specialist or a general practitioner to get your eyes checked.
Precaution is the best protection, and this is even more important when it comes to delicate organs like your eyes.
Dr. Mohan Rajan is a Ophthalmologist/ Eye Surgeon in T Nagar, Chennai and has an experience of 35 years in this field. Dr. Mohan Rajan practices at Rajan Eye Care Hospital Pvt Ltd in T Nagar, Chennai and Rajan Eye Care Hospital Pvt Ltd. Meet Dr Mohan, M.B.B.S., D.O., FMRF., MNAMS., M.Ch, FACS and FRCS Diplomate in National Board (Dip. NB. Ophth.), Vitreo Retinal Fellow, Sankara Nethralaya.