A virologist, epidemiologist, and NBC News medical contributor who has been admitted to the hospital with COVID-19 claimed on Thursday that he believes he contracted the novel coronavirus through his eyes while on a cramped flight.
Dr. Joseph Fair started feeling symptoms several days following a flight to New Orleans 2 weeks ago, despite following safety precautions.
A growing number of Americans are using protective cloth to guard their mouths and noses in order to avoid contracting the coronavirus. However, eyes that are long believed to be a probable infection route usually remain unshielded in the air.
"You can still get this virus through your eyes... it's the best guess I have of probably how I got it," Fair remarked.
How does the coronavirus enter through eyes? According to NBC News medical correspondent, "It usually happens because of contact."
"You touch something, and you rub your eye and you get it in that way."
Three days after boarding a flight to New Orleans on a plane that had them congested like "sardines," he became sick with flu-like symptoms that slowly aggravated until he was hospitalized this week, on oxygen.
"I had a mask on, I had gloves on, I did my normal wipes routine... but obviously, you can still get it through your eyes," Fair said from his hospital bed.
Aside from the normal coronavirus precautions, he added an obvious "of course I wasn't wearing goggles on the flight."
Fair noted that nurses in the hospital wear face shields or goggles when they are taking care of coronavirus patients in order to mitigate the risk of getting infected with COVID-19.
He regrets that he should probably have gotten off the flight.
Experts informed that while this narrative underscores that people should take the pandemic seriously, it is not one that should induce panic.
Dr. Thomas Steinemann, a representative for the American Academy of Ophthalmology, said that our eyes' surface is a primary target for the coronavirus.
"That's one of the three known routes of getting this infection that we just don't pay a lot of attention to. We tend to pay attention to the nose and mouth because that is the most common route," Fair said.
He added, "Droplets landing on your eyes are just as infectious."
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the coronavirus spreads generally "from person to person, mainly through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes."
"These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs."
CDC added that the coronavirus does not easily spread in other ways.
Less common ways that COVID-19 eye transmission can take place are if an individual coughs or sneezes on you and you fail to protect your eyes.
The coronavirus then sticks to receptors on the eyes' surface and prevails throughout the body, NBC News medical correspondent Dr. John Torres explained.
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