Boston-area ophthalmologists are cautioning that anyone treating COVID-19 patients or in close contact with others should use protective eye wear to guard against COVID-19.

Although it is rare, recent studies report that people can become infected with COVID-19 through their eyes. Astudy published in Nature Communications in September found that rhesus monkeys became infected with mild COVID-19 when sample droplets of the virus came in contact with the eye.

“It didn't infect the eye," said Dr. James Chodosh, an ophthalmologist at Mass Eye and Ear in Boston and an advisor to the American Academy of Ophthalmology. "It went through the tear drainage track and it got to the respiratory tract in that way.”

In another study published inMarch 2020 in the Journal of the American Medical Association Ophthalmology,researchers found one-third, or 12 of 38 patients with COVID-19 in Hubei Province, China had the common eye infection conjunctivitis.

Dr. Sarwat Salim, an ophthalmologist and glaucoma specialist at Tufts Medical Center, said while those figures appear alarming, other studies show a much smaller connection between the two, with only about one percent of COVID-19 patients developing conjunctivitis.

Ophthalmologists suggest that anyone in close contact with COVID-19 patients should take extra precautions, including wearing eyeglasses rather than contact lenses, and wearing goggles or other eye protection.

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