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Subspecialties Comprehensive, Health Economics and Policy, COVID-19

All Eyes on Coronavirus

A recent Lancet study has stated that transmission of the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) through the ocular surface must not be ignored (1). The statement comes after the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) issued an alert on January 28 suggesting the virus can cause conjunctivitis and is possibly transmitted via aerosol contact with the conjunctiva – increasing the likelihood that ophthalmologists will be the first healthcare providers to evaluate patients potentially infected with COVID-19 (2).

The novel coronavirus is "not as deadly as [...] SARS and MERS," according to the WHO (3), but despite the lower case fatality rate, it has already resulted in more deaths than SARS and MERS combined (4). There are currently 2,462 recorded fatalities, including whistleblowing ophthalmologist Li Wenliang.

The AAO has recommended protection for the mouth, nose – and eyes – when caring for potentially infected patients.

As of February 23, there were 78,811 confirmed cases of COVID-19 globally, with 1,769 of these outside of China, and the total death toll stands at 2,462.

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  1. Cheng-wei Lu et al., “2019-nCoV transmission through the ocular surface must not be ignored”, The Lancet, (2013). Available at: bit.ly/2UK0LRL
  2. AAO, “Alert: Important coronavirus context for ophthalmologists”, (2020). Available at: https://bit.ly/39ukbON
  3. World Health Organization, "Middle East respiratory coronavirus (MERS-CoV)". Available at: https://bit.ly/2T8IcUV
  4. E Mahase, "Coronavirus covid-19 has killed more people than SARS and MERS combined, despite lower case fatality rate", BMJ, 368 (2020). PMID: 32071063.

About the Author

Lauren Robertson

Deputy Editor at The Ophthalmologist.

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