The eyes are an important route for the coronavirus into the human body, a new study has found.
Researchers in Hong Kong found that SARS-CoV-2, the pathogen that causes Covid-19, is up to 100 times more capable of replicating in the eye membrane and in the upper respiratory tract than the viruses that cause severe acute respiratory syndrome and bird flu.
"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," said Dr Michael Chan Chi-wai, the leader of the project at the University of Hong Kong's school of public health.
The study, based on laboratory tests, was published in The Lancet Respiratory Medicine on May 7.
It further backs up the advice against touching your eyes and for washing hands regularly to avoid infection.
It also highlights the need to provide medical workers with eye covering in addition to the use of N95 masks and protective clothing.
In late January, a renowned respiratory specialist at Peking University First Hospital, Wang Guangfa, reported that he had come down with a fever and catarrh (excessive mucus in the nose or throat) about three hours after his eye had developed conjunctivitis on his return to Beijing from Wuhan.
Wang was later confirmed with Covid-19, with his eyes suspected as the route of infection.
The Hong Kong researchers previously found the coronavirus could survive as long as seven days on stainless steel surfaces and plastic.
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