Is there a risk of being infected through your eyes? Is eye protection necessary? Virologist and epidemiologist Dr. Joseph Fair recently fell ill. He believes he got Coronavirus through his eyes. He has said that he had been on a crowded flight two weeks before, and even though he was wearing a mask, gloves, wiped down his seat, he did not have any protection on his eyes. He believes it is still possible that you could get the virus through your eyes, and that is how he got it. His symptoms came three or four days later, but his four tests for the virus were negative.
The idea that it could come through your eyes is not a new concept, but it has not been discussed as much as the nose and mouth. What the CDC says is that the nose and mouth are main avenues for the virus to enter your body. However, it may be possible that just touching an object with the virus, mouth, nose AND eyes.
What we know is that the possibility of the virus coming in on the surface of your eye is definitely possible. A mucous membrane is a place for a droplet to land there and get inside your body. It is hard to figure out what the chances are exactly of how to contract the virus through your eyes specifically.
It is, for most cases, impossible to figure out exactly where someone got infected from. Whether they were infected through their mouth, nose, or eyes is not easily determinable. However, evidence has shown that eyes do not seem to be the primary mode of transmission. The key here is that if people contracted the virus through their eyes, there would be a lot more COVID-19 patients with pink eye. If the virus had invaded the conjunctiva, which is the clear part covering your eye and the inside of your eyelids, there would be inflammation in your eyes. This would definitely happen if people were infected through their eyes, so the lack of COVID-19 patients with eye inflammations shows that not many contract the virus through this avenue. However, some patients have tested positive for the virus in their eyes.
Another reason that eyes are not likely the path for Coronavirus is that the path from your eyes into your respiratory system is a lot less direct than through your nose and mouth. If an infectious person were to cough or sneeze into your face, breathing that in brings the virus to have a direct hit on the system you use to breathe. However, infection through the eyes would require the penetration of your eye, be washed behind your cheeks into your nasal cavity, and then flow down into your throat.
Your eye definitely has a better defense mechanism and reflexes to the threat of coronavirus in that it will literally close up at the sign of any cough, sneeze, or even breath. Should precautions be taken to protect your eyes? Wash your hands. Practice social distancing. Do not touch your face. Don’t rub your eyes. Should you wear goggles? In health care settings, eye coverings are necessary. If you work in close proximity with anyone, goggles and full face shields are actually necessary. A face shield is not necessary on a walk around the neighborhood, but on a packed airplane? Definitely.