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Can Coronavirus spread through tears?

Updated: Oct 6, 2020

COVID-19 is a highly transmissible infectious disease that can cause a wide range of symptoms varying from mild cough or fever to shortness of breath and death in severe cases. Coronavirus is believed to be spread through contact with respiratory droplets from an infected person when they cough or sneeze as well as if someone touches a surface where the virus is present and then touch their mouth, nose or eyes.

Coronavirus, although less likely, can spread via conjunctival secretions, or tears. A recent study in the journal, Ophthalmology, suggests that it is unlikely for the virus to be present in tears of infected patients. However, in that study, none of the patients had signs of conjunctivitis, or pink eye. Published by the Journal of Medical Virology, another study which evaluated the tears and conjunctival secretions of 30 confirmed COVID-19 hospitalized patients (1 of which did have conjunctivitis or pink eye), suggested that the virus may be present in the tears of COVID-19 patients that also have conjunctivitis. Those that do not present with conjunctivitis, may not have the virus present in the tears. Conjunctivitis is a symptom in 1-3 percent of the positive COVID-19 cases. Therefore although very low, there is a possibility for ocular route of spread of this infection.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the best way to prevent the spread of this illness is by doing the following:

  • washing your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds

  • avoiding touching your nose, mouth or eyes with unwashed hands

  • avoiding close contact with people that are at a higher risk

  • covering coughs and sneezes with a tissue or the inside of the arm

  • cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces often, like doorknobs, light switches, faucets, cell phones etc.


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