Health and disease prevention measures have been largely publicised by the government and media in the past weeks in order to stop the spread of coronavirus, (COVID-19) including avoiding touching the nose, mouth and eyes with your hands, which should be washed more frequently.

The transmission medium of COVID-19 is thought to be mainly respiratory, spreading through mucus and droplets expelled by coughing or sneezing. The most common symptoms are in fact cough, fever, tiredness and, in the most severe cases, breathing difficulty.

Comparisons are being made with Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), which are also caused by viruses of the same family. Other symptoms listed on the World Health Organisation website are nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat or diarrhea.

Viral conjunctivitis is not currently listed in the national case definition for COVID-19, and not much information is available yet on the relationship between coronavirus and the human eye as the topic is still a matter of research, however, several reports have noted that conjunctivitis, or pink eye, could be a symptom of COVID-19.

A recent study analysed data from 38 patients infected with COVID-19 from Hubei Province, China, and discovered that ‘A total of 12 out of 38 patients (31.6%; 95% CI, 17.5-48.7) had ocular manifestations consistent with conjunctivitis, including conjunctival hyperemia, chemosis, epiphora, or increased secretions.’

The study also found COVID-19 was present on conjunctiva swabs from 2 out of 11 (18%) patients tested for SARS-CoV-2 via nasopharyngeal swabs.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology also recently shared a notice that conjunctivitis could signal a person has COVID-19, after recent reports suggested the condition was a symptom. It has been also been speculated that coronavirus may be detected in the tears and conjunctival secretions in affected patients with conjunctivitis.

Until more is found, it is crucial to protect your eyes and respect social distancing. Wearing glasses could act as an additional layer of protection. If you are a contact lens wearer, it is advisable to wear glasses more often, at least for a while.

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