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COVID-19 and Eye Care

Coronavirus. COVID-19. SARS-CoV-2. Whatever you call it, it’s probably all you’ve been hearing about lately. Though coronaviruses are a large family of viruses known to cause respiratory infections ranging from the common cold to more severe issues, the infamous virus you’ve been hearing about is COVID-19.

What Is COVID-19?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “COVID-19 is an infectious disease caused by the most recently discovered coronavirus. This new virus and disease were unknown before the outbreak began in Wuhan, China, in December 2019.” Symptoms ofCOVID-19 are usually mild and gradual, with some people going up to 5 days after being infected without symptoms. The most common symptoms are fever, tiredness, and a dry cough. Other symptoms that have been reported include:

  • Aches and pains
  • Nasal congestion
  • Runny nose
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Sore throat
  • Diarrhea

How Does COVID-19 Spread?

When a person infected with COVID-19 exhales or coughs, they can send respiratory droplets into the air from their nose or mouth. Contact with these droplets leads to the spread of the virus. Though not technically an “air-born” virus, who recommends keeping a 3-foot distance from anyone who may be infected. Many health organizations are encouraging social distancing, a proactive practice where we avoid large crowds and intentionally keep a distance between 3 and 6 feet from one another.

“Social distancing is pretty much like using common sense,” Steven Gordon, MD, says. “We don’t realize how interconnected we are until we’re asked to avoid people.” However, the number of people that is deemed “too many” is still up in the air. “While the number 25 is often cited, there’s currently no official definition — and that may be subject to change.”

How Did People First Find Out About COVID-19?

The first person to warn others about this virus was Li Wenliang, MD, an ophthalmologist in Wuhan, China, where COVID-19 originated.

Dr. Li shared his concerns about COVID-19 (not identified at the time) in December 2019 on a Chinese social media site where he posted several warnings to his colleagues “about a cluster of SARS-like pneumonia cases.” He was eventually forced by Chinese officials to sign a letter stating he made false claims. The 33-year-old doctor returned to work where he soon developed the virus after encountering a non-symptomatic glaucoma patient. After testing positive for COVID-19 on January 31, Dr. Li passed away on February 7 due to complications from the virus.

Who Is Most At Risk?Optometrist eye exam

Anyone can contract COVID-19. All it takes is contact with an infected person or surface. However, people over 40 and those with prior health problems like high blood pressure, lung issues, or diabetes are heavily affected by the illness. From the current data, children and adults under 40, though equally susceptible to the illness, tend to recover fairly well.

What Now?

Many organizations are taking precautions to help hinder the spread of COVID-19. The National Basketball Association (NBA) was the first to postpone its season after several players tested positive for the virus. The National Hockey League (NHL) and National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) were next to suspend their events, followed by Major League Baseball (MLB).

Many organizations postponed or canceled events like concerts, expos, and trade shows, and travel is being heavily discouraged and restricted. Some companies encourage employees to work remotely if possible. Others are limiting exposure to inter-office personnel only, no meetings with external entities allowed, to reduce the chances of exposure.

How Can We Protect Ourselves?

  1. Wash your hands frequently, especially after seeing a patient.
  2. Use hand sanitizer when washing your hands is not an option.
  3. Try to avoid touching your face, especially after having contact with another person (patient or otherwise).
  4. Use protective eyewear (protective glasses or goggles) and face wear (mask) when working closely with a patient.
  5. Sanitize commonly touched surfaces/frequented places often (doorknobs, tables, bathrooms, etc.)
  6. Practice social distancing. Try to avoid crowded places, especially for lunch or any other activity where contact with an infected person or surface is more likely.
  7. Try to avoid infected people. If someone you know is ill, especially after traveling, and you must see them, try to keep the recommended 3-foot distance.