While the Covid-19 virus is understood to be highly transmissible, it is a respiratory disease, meaning it primarily spreads through mucus and droplets expelled by coughing or sneezing. But, there have been many questions on the possibilities of its spread via bodily fluids such as sweat, tears, and more.
According to Dr Sanjith Saseedharan, consultant and head-critical care at SL Raheja Hospital, Mahim-A Fortis Associate, a recent study by the Government Medical College, Amritsar, revealed that tears of Covid-infected patients have the potential to transmit the virus.
“The transmission, however, was found in only 17.5 per cent of the total samples tested. The study focused on evaluating the presence of Covid in tears of positive patients with and without ‘ocular manifestation’, highlighting the risk of transmission through other routes such as fecal-oral and conjunctival secretions as well. It also pointed out that coronavirus-infected patients can shed the infection in conjunctival secretions even in the absence of ocular involvement,” the doctor said.
The doctor said opticians, ophthalmologists, and other caregivers working in personal care sectors — salons, beauticians, and home healthcare providers — can be at higher risk, if exposed to infected secretions.
How does Covid spread through tears?
Dr Saseedharan explained that people who have coronavirus can spread the disease through their tears. “Touching tears or a surface where tears have landed is another way someone can become infected. You can also become infected by touching your eyes after touching something that has the virus on it. Coronavirus may cause a pink eye infection (conjunctivitis), but this is rare.
“If you have pink eyes, don’t panic. Simply call your ophthalmologist to let them know and follow their instructions. Keep in mind that whether the pink eye is caused by a virus or bacteria, it can spread if someone touches that sticky/runny discharge. Infected people and caregivers must, therefore, maintain caution.”
Tips for prevention
1. Avoid rubbing your eyes when infected with Covid-19.
2. Always cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, or use the inside of your elbow.
3. Throw used tissues in the trash.
4. Immediately wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not readily available, clean your hands with a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 per cent alcohol.
5. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands if you are around infected people.
6. Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
7. Wear a mask in public settings and when around people not living in their household.
8. Clean and disinfect frequently-touched surfaces daily.