Aside from implementing social distancing measures, many governments around the world have made the wearing of masks mandatory to protect its citizens against the coronavirus. And while a mask can protect our nose and mouth, it still leaves our eyes open and vulnerable.
According to a report from Fox News, experts have confirmed that the coronavirus can be contracted through the eyes and is a hundred times more infectious compared to SARS.
A team of Hong Kong researchers explained this week that the eyes are a key point of coronavirus infection. It was explained that COVID-19 has higher infection rates through the eyes, including the airways, compared to bird flu, H5N1, and severe acute syndrome or SARS.
The human conjunctiva, a thin, clear tissue covering the eyeball and inner surface of the eyelids, is more likely to be targeted by SARS-CoV-2 which causes COVID-19. The transmission rate is nearly 100 times more compared to other parts of the human body.
Dr. Michael Chan Chi-wai, who led the research team at Hong Kong University's School of Public Health, explained this to the South China Morning Post. The findings of the study were later published in the latest issue of The Lancel Respiratory Medicine.
Coronavirus has a higher chance of infecting the eyes, and is 100 times more infectious than SARS; How to avoid face touching?
"We culture tissues from the human respiratory tract and eyes in the laboratory and applied them to study the SARS-Cov-2, comparing it with SARS and H5N1. We found that SARS-Cov-2 is much more efficient in infecting the human conjunctiva and the upper respiratory airways than SARS with virus level some 80 to 100 times higher," said Chan Chi-wai, who led the study.
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"This explains the higher transmissibility of COVID-19 than that of SARS. This study also highlights the fact that eyes may be an important route of SARS-CoV-2 human infection." he further explained.
It was revealed that the number of COVID-19 cases to date is now nearly 4 million worldwide. Meanwhile, the SARS outbreak in the early 2000s was estimated to have infected only 8,000 people.
The findings of the study highlight the importance of avoiding face-touching. It also suggests the need for essential workers to wear protective eyewear, not just face masks.
"Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands," explained the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
However, keeping your hands away from your eyes is easier said than done. According to the previous report of Fox News, one study discovered that people touch their face 23 times an hour on average.
Dr. William Schaffner, the medical director for the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID) shared tips on how to avoid face touching.
He said that using sticky notes on desks or alarms on cell phones can be an effective reminder to avoid face touching; just like how it reminds people to complete their to-do list.
Using a ribbon or a piece of tape can help an individual be aware of their actions, stopping them from touching their face. Putting scented lotion on your hands is also suggested as the smell can give people a warning.
Keeping the hands busy is also an effective way since your mind can focus on other things. It is also suggested to fold your hands in your lap or sitting on them during a meeting--a stress ball or a fidget toy may also be effective, experts suggest.