The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) worldwide is rising rapidly on a daily basis.

The coronavirus is a respiratory illness that is transmitted through person-to-person contact and by contact with respiratory droplets left on surfaces. (Learn More) The World Health Organization (WHO) has stated that COVID-19 is between 2 and 2.5 more contagious than the general flu. (Learn More)

The coronavirus is spread through respiratory secretions, such as those expelled when coughing and sneezing. It can also be transmitted through tears, salvia, and mucus. It can, therefore, be transmitted both to and from the eyes. (Learn More)

If you are healthy, wearing protective eyewear isn’t considered necessary to protect you from the virus. Health care workers often wear protective eyewear since they are in close proximity to infected individuals. (Learn More)

To minimize your risk for contracting the coronavirus, stay at home as much as you can, wash your hands frequently, and avoid touching your face and eyes. When you do go out, maintain at least six feet of distance from others. (Learn More)

How the Coronavirus Spreads

The novel coronavirus, or COVID- 19, has currently spread through over 160 territories and countries around the world. The coronavirus is believed to be more contagious than influenza, or the flu. Each infected person can easily transmit the disease to two to three people, all before showing symptoms of the virus.

COVID-19 is largely transmitted through direct personal contact with bodily fluids from a sick person. This includes:

  • Mucus
  • Saliva
  • Sweat
  • Tears

It is most often spread through coughing and sneezing. The virus can live on surfaces for a few hours up to a few days, so you can also be infected by touching a dirty surface and then touching your eyes, mouth, nose, or other areas of your face.

 

Transmission Through the Eyes

Information on the novel coronavirus and its rate and method of transmission evolves almost daily. In February 2020, the eyes were found to be potential route of exposure. This means the coronavirus can be transmitted through the eyes and then spread throughout the body.

The virus can be passed from person to person through airborne droplets in close proximity. If you are standing close to an infected person who sneezes near your eyes, nose, or mouth, you can contract the disease. The coronavirus can be airborne, but it is believed this is only the case for short distances.

You can also infect yourself if you come into contact with a contaminated surface and then touch your eyes. The same is true if you touch your mouth or nose.

 

Protective Eyewear & Reducing the Risk

Many people have taken to wearing masks over their mouth and nose to decrease the spread of the coronavirus. Since the virus can also be spread through the eyes, it would follow that protective eyewear could be beneficial as well. If you are a healthy person and not in direct contact with a sick person, eye protection has not been deemed necessary, however.

Medical personnel and health care professionals who are treating infected patients should wear protective eyewear along with gowns, gloves, and filtering masks. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explains that protective eyewear includes either goggles or a face shield that covers the front and sides of the face. Regular prescription eyeglasses do not provide enough protection.

Minimizing Exposure

You do not need to wear protective eyewear, such as safety goggles, as a general precaution to avoid contracting the coronavirus.

While certain locations are recommending or even requiring that people wear masks while out in public, these masks are to reduce the likelihood of asymptomatic individuals spreading the virus. Most masks don’t protect individuals from getting the virus since they aren’t medical grade.

These are the best things you can do to minimize your risk and potential exposure to the coronavirus:

  • Use proper handwashing techniques. Use soap and water, wash your hands (all of them, including the backs of your hands, between your fingers, your fingernails, and your thumbs) for at least 20 seconds. Wash your hands after coming in contact with any potential contagion.
  • Practice social distancing. Maintain a distance of at least six feet between you and other people who are not direct members of your household.
  • Stay home as much as possible. Limit your exposure to others by only leaving your house for necessary errands or tasks.
  • Sanitize surfaces. Bleach, cleaning, and disinfectant products have been proven to kill the coronavirus on surfaces. Keep everything that you touch and come into contact with clean and disinfected.
  • Don’t touch your face. Keep your hands away from your mouth, nose, and eyes as much as possible.

Many places around the world are instituting “shelter-in-place” orders to keep people home in order to minimize the spread of the coronavirus. You can transmit the disease without showing symptoms, so even if you don’t think you are sick, you can still pass it on to someone else. The disease is highly contagious, but the majority of people who contract the coronavirus experience mild symptoms and will make a full recovery.

To limit your potential risk of transmitting or contracting the disease, practice proper hygiene, lower the amount of outside exposure you have, and try not to touch your face. As a general rule, if you are not sick or around people who you know are sick, you do not need to wear protective eyewear to avoid the disease.

 

References

COVID-19 Coronavirus Pandemic. (April 2020). Worldometer.

How Contagious Is the New Coronavirus, and How Does It Compare to Flu and SARS? (March 2020). Newsweek.

Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Situation Report-46. (March 2020). World Health Organization (WHO).

Alert: Important Coronavirus Updates for Ophthalmologists. (March 2020). American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO).

Coronavirus: A Quick Summary for Optometrists. (March 2020). Optometry Times.

2019 Novel Coronavirus and Patient Safety in the Medical Office. (March 2020). The Doctors Company.

Should Healthy People Wear Masks to Prevent Coronavirus? The Answer May Be Changing. (April 2020). TIME.