Coronavirus: How eyes may play a role in its spread
Our eyes may play a main role in the spread and prevention of the new coronavirus outbreak seen throughout the world, eye doctors and health experts say.
To cut your personal risk of contracting the new coronavirus, avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands. It is the mucous membranes (membranes that line various cavities in the body) that are most susceptible to transmission of the virus.
The relationship between the transmission of the coronavirus and your eyes is complicated.
It’s thought that coronavirus spreads from person to person mostly through airborne “respiratory droplets” produced when someone coughs or sneezes, much like the flu virus spreads, the CDC says. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby, and possibly be inhaled into the lungs.
These droplets also can be spread to your eyes when you touch your face and then your eyes with unwashed hands.
Medical experts are unsure whether someone can contract this virus by touching a surface or object, such as a table or doorknob, that has coronavirus on it and then touching their mouth, nose or possibly their eyes.
This is why the CDC and World Health Organization recommend diligently washing your hands for 20 seconds or more with warm water and soap.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends contact lens wearers switch to glasses temporarily as a way to decrease their risk of contracting the virus that causes COVID-19, the respiratory disease that can be fatal.
Contact lens wearers touch their eyes more often than those sporting glasses, the ophthalmology group says.
Glasses and sunglasses don’t offer a whole barrier from respiratory droplets sprayed in your direction. Safety glasses, which protect the exposed sides and the area around your eyes may offer better protection, health care experts say.
WHO specifically recommends safety glasses for people who will be providing regular care for people with COVID-19.