NBC News medical contributor Dr. Joseph Fair
Ophthalmologists with publicized COVID infections while in the public eye include Dr. Li Wenliang. Many other doctors contracted COVID through eye practices and the eyes, including infectious disease expert NBC News medical contributor Dr. Joseph Fair who believes he contracted COVID through his eyes.
Ophthalmologists and Chinese “hero” Dr. Li Wenliang who sounded the alarm on human to human transmission, notably died after contracting COVID-19 in his ophthalmology work. In 2014, Li first became an ophthalmologist at Wuhan Central Hospital in Wuhan. It is reported that Dr. Li returned to work and later contracted COVID-19 from a patient who was infected unbeknownst to him. Li was hospitalized and died from the disease on February 7, 2020, at age 33.
NBC News medical contributor Dr. Joseph Fair joined TODAY’s Al Roker by video chat from his hospital bed to discuss his experience battling the coronavirus. He was tested four times before his diagnosis and says he believes he got the virus through his eyes. Virologist Dr. Joseph Fair, an NBC News contributor who has frequently helped TODAY cover the coronavirus pandemic, was in the hospital in May 2020, battling COVID-19 himself. NBC senior national correspondent Kate Snow reported for TODAY.
Dr.Fair talked about how he contracted COVID-19 himself despite many precautions. He suspects that he may have gotten the virus through his eyes on a plane flight. “It felt like a moderately severe flu for the first week,” he says, but then his condition got progressively worse and he had trouble breathing. He declined to be intubated and responded well to oxygen and drug treatment, and has been taken off the critical list. “I am a very healthy person,” he says. “If it can take me down, it can take anybody down.”
Ophthalmology practices and doctors, and eye clinics are well known vectors for many types of healthcare associated infections (HAI) including COVID and Epidemic keratoconjunctivitis (EKC).
At least three other well known ophthalmologists also contracted COVID in their daily practice in Wuhan in 2020, which speaks to the substantial conjunctival contagion of COVID ( Sars COV-2 ).
Ophthalmologists may spread the COVID infection to other patients through inadequate sanitation of their offices, equipment, slit-lamps, as well as unfounded reliance on alcohol wipes which are known to lack sufficient antiviral properties. Eye protection including wrap around googles are an important PPE ( personal protective equipment) for COVID prevention.
A recent research publication in JAMA Ophthalmology confirmed the ocular manifestations and contagion of COVID. This new report published by JAMA Ophthalmology found preliminary data may suggest severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the virus that causes coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), might be transmitted through the eye.
“While the outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has resulted in more than 100, 000 infected individuals in China and worldwide, there are few reports on the association of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) with ocular abnormalities. Understanding
ocular manifestations of patients with COVID-19 by ophthalmologists and others may facilitate the diagnosis and prevention of transmission of
“Findings In this case series including 38 patients with COVID-19, 12 patients had ocular manifestations, such as epiphora, conjunctival congestion, or chemosis, and these commonly occurred in patients with more severe systemic manifestations. Reverse transcriptase–polymerase chain reaction results were positive for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 in 28 nasopharyngeal swabs and 2 conjunctival swabs, and more significant changes in blood test values appeared in patients with ocular abnormalities.”
“Meaning These data may assist ophthalmologists and others to understand the ocular manifestations of COVID-19, thus enhancing the diagnosis and prevention of the transmission of the disease.”
“Conclusions and Relevance In this study, one-third of patients with COVID-19 had ocular abnormalities, which frequently occurred in patients with more severe COVID-19. Although there is a low prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 in tears, it is possible to transmit via the eyes.”