Proper eye care during the pandemic

COVID-19 disease caused by SARS-CoV-2, a single-stranded RNA virus has recently become global pandemic. It is highly transmissible presenting with a significant fatality rate, especially in the elderly and those with comorbidities such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, chronic respiratory disease and immune suppression. Although common signs and symptoms typically include respiratory illness, including fever, cough and shortness of breath, conjunctivitis has also been reported 1-2% as one of minor symptoms. The virus is thought to primarily spread via person-to-person through respiratory droplets produced when an infected patient coughs or sneezes. It also could be spread if people touch an object or surface with virus present from an infected person and then touch their mouth, nose or eyes. Clinical researches have suggested that the virus can cause conjunctivitis and possibly be transmitted by aerosol contact with conjunctiva. Since there is no definite treatment for COVID-19 disease, current treatments are given based upon presenting symptoms. Not only respiratory manifestations, COVID-19 disease has produced a wide range of symptoms including ocular conditions. Proper eye care is crucially needed to minimize the risks of viral transmission during this pandemic period. 

Previously, some medical research conducted in China reports that ocular secretions and tears of 30 patients with pneumonia hospitalized for COVID-19 were collected. Out of 30, one patient had conjunctivitis. This patient – and not the other 29 – had confirmed result of PCR test indicating SARS-CoV-2 RNA in ocular secretions. This suggests that SARS-CoV-2 can cause conjunctivitis and infectious viral particles might be present in ocular secretions of COVID-19 patients with conjunctivitis. In a larger study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, conjunctival congestion was found in 9 of 1,099 patients (or 0.8%) hospitalized with confirmed COVID-19 from 30 hospitals across China. None of the patients were documented to have seen ophthalmologists and their tears were not sampled for viral detection.

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