According to a recently published report, detectable traces of coronavirus has been found in the eyes of Italy’s first coronavirus patient after it had cleared from her nose. The patient had traveled from Wuhan, China to Italy in late January and was admitted to hospital on Jan 29 due to coronavirus symptoms.
Experts say there is an increasing need for people to be aware of their hand hygiene to keep hands away from their face as the novel coronavirus can exist in an infected person’s eye fluids at probable contagious levels according to the reports.
The 65-year-old woman was admitted to the Italian hospital with a sore throat, stuffy nose, dry cough, and conjunctivitis, an infection in the lining of the eye, also known as pinkeye.
On the third day of her admission to the hospital, doctors collected eye swabs from her because of her persistent conjunctivitis. They found detectable infectious coronavirus particles in her eyes.
On her 20th day in the hospital, her pinkeye cleared up, but traces of coronavirus’s genetic material was still found on her eyes until the 21st day under the care. The virus was not detected for the next five days but it again showedup on the 27th day, days after the virus was undetectable in her nasal swabs.
The researchers also found that her eyes could be contagious as the virus in the eyes was replicating.
According to infectious disease experts, practicing good personal hygiene is important as the eye secretions of patients with Covid-19 could be contagious.
The report that says coronavirus could be found in the eyes serves no surprise as viral conjunctivitis is extremely contagious, said Aaron Glatt, professor at Mount Sinai South Nassau, a hospital in New York.
The study’s findings could affect public health but more research is required to gauge how widespread the issue is, said Glatt.
The origin of coronavirus infection at a Wuhan fever clinic in January was thought to be an unprotected eye exposure, the report pointed out. Detectable amounts of coronavirus were found in one covid-19 patient out of 30 patients with conjunctivitis.
Glatt said, “This has ramifications, but you can’t make policy based on one patient.”
W. David Hardy, an infectious disease specialist and adjunct professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine said the findings establish the connection between eye and the nose that people don’t always remember.
The eye and nose act as a drainage system were viruses can travel up from nose to eyes and vice versa, he said. But the cells that line the lungs and throat are the virus’s favorite cells. The virus doesn’t cause nearly the same amount of damage in eyes as it does to the respiratory system, he added. The experts said the public should not rush to purchase face shields but should continue to practice good hand hygiene.