In a shocking revelation, ophthalmologists have warned that conjunctivitis, or commonly called as pink eye, could be one of the symptoms of Coronavirus in addition to dry cough, flu, and breathing difficulty.
Several studies have recently been published that claim that SARS-CoV-2, the Coronavirus that causes COVID-19 disease, could be transmitted to conjunctiva through aerosol or hand contact, resulting in conjunctivitis, either during as an early sign of infection or during hospitalization for COVID-19.
Conjunctiva is a clear, thin membrane that covers part of the front surface of the eye and the inner surface of eyelids.
A recently published study in the Journal of Medical Virology investigates the presence of SARS-COV-2 in the eyes of patients tested positive for COVID-19.
Out of every 30 patients admitted in a hospital for COVID-19 treatment in China, 1 had conjunctivitis. SARS-COV-2 RNA was found in tears and conjunctival secretions of the 1 patient with pink eye.
The researchers conclude that SARS-COV-2 infects conjunctiva which leads to conjunctivitis, or pink eye.
Another study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, which assessed clinical characteristics of COVID-19 patients, states that SARS-COV-2 causes conjunctivitis.
During the study, researchers evaluated 1,099 patients of COVID-19 receiving treatment in 30 different hospitals across China. Out of those, 9 patients (0.8%) had conjunctiva.
Although a small number of COVID-19 patients had conjunctiva in this study, researchers found that none of the 9 patients ever had a prior history of any sort of eye infection, implying that these patients developed the disease after contracting SARS-COV-2.
Another study published on March 31 in JAMA Ophthalmology further corroborates that conjunctiva could be caused by SARS-COV-2. 12 out of 38 COVID-19 patients in Hubei, China, assessed during this study also had conjunctiva.
Besides studies, a Washington-based nurse has said that most of the elderly patients of the COVID-19 she has tended to since the outbreak have pink eye apart from persistent dry cough and rapid breathing. It is also important to note that Washington is the first US state which reported the country’s first case of COVID-19 on 21 January.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has urged people not to touch their eyes, nose, and mouth without washing their hands first. The CDC has also recommended ophthalmologists to properly cover their eyes along with nose and mouth during appointments.
Ophthalmologists, on the other hand, have recommended contact lens wearers to switch to glasses to prevent them from touching their eyes unnecessarily during the pandemic.