Coronavirus can linger in the eyes for weeks, according to a newly published case report. Researchers at the National Institute for Infectious Diseases in Italy have found the virus can persist in the eyes for up to 21 days. Although COVID-19 primarily spreads from person-to-person via droplets of saliva and mucus from coughing and sneezing, the new study underscores why avoiding touching your face and eyes is so crucial.
According to the report published in the Journal Annals of Internal Medicine, Italy’s first confirmed COVID-9 patient showed signs of the virus in her eyes.
This persisted long after the virus had left her body. She later tested positive for the deadly virus and a few days later she then developed the common symptoms of COVID-19 including fever, nausea and vomiting.
This signals how the eyes could hold clues of a possible infection.
Coronavirus symptoms: The warning signs in the eyes
The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that conjunctival congestion is a symptom of COVID-19.
Viral conjunctivitis symptoms are variable, however they usually involve a red eye and excessive water discharge.
Viral cold-like symptoms include a congested or runny nose.
Eyelids may also become swollen and sensitive to light.
Conjunctivitis in the eyes occurs due to inflammation of the conjunctiva which is the thin and transparent membrane which covers the white part of the eye and the inner part of the eyelids.
The condition develops due to a build-up of inflammation which is a result of either a bacterial or viral infection including COVID-19.
Some symptoms described by patients include redness, gritty feeling in the eye or discharge coming from the eye.
It’s been strongly advised anyone wearing contact lenses must stop wearing them in case of further damage.
Coronavirus symptoms: Conjunctivitis and red eyes are some of the potential warning signs in eyes
Dr Vincente Diaz, an ophthalmologist, detailed the warning symptom found in the eyes signalling a possible COVID-19 infection.
Dr Diaz said: “Many viral illnesses can affect the eye, typically causing a follicular type of conjunctivitis. We are learning that COVID-19 can affect the conjunctiva in a low percentage of people.
“Those displaying the ocular symptoms are contagious, meaning the virus can be transmitted through the eye’s secretions.”
US nurse, Chelsey Earnest spoke to CNN to warn of another unusual warning sign found in the eyes. Ms Earnest said: “It’s something that I witnessed in all of the patients. They have, like…allergy eyes [sic].
“The white part of the eye is not red. It is more like they have red eye shadow on the outside of their eyes.
“We’ve had patients that just had red eyes as the only symptom that we saw and went to the hospital and passed away.
“I’ve even had the disaster medical control physician ask if they have red eyes and I will say ‘yes’ and he’ll say, ‘I’ll find you a bed’. It’s just something about this, the way that it affects these patients.”