On February 11th, 2020 WHO declared coronavirus as a global health emergency and an international threat to public health. The Chinese-origin COVID-19 has affected 93,528 people and killed 3,204 people till now. Day-by-day the new coronavirus epidemic rapidly spreads around the world. Even though the understanding of the virus’s transmission patterns remain full of doubts and question, it is confirmed that the viruses of COVID-19 transmit through droplets and other bodily secretions. This has alerted the healthcare workers since 20% of the victims are them. Especially the healthcare workers in ophthalmology practice who may be particularly susceptible to these infections. Ophthalmologists and coronavirus have a close connection.
Ophthalmologists mostly rely on physical examination during a patient consultation. And the proximity between patients and ophthalmologists is almost 3m-5m which is a lot less than the 6m distance that is said to be the range through which sneeze or cough droplets can be transmitted. During the SARS-CoV epidemic, clinical reports have suggested tears as a medium of infection. And, Ophthalmologists and instruments they use tend to come in contact with tears and eye discharges on a daily basis.
The case of a 33-year-old ophthalmologist, Dr. Li Wenliang, who died due to coronavirus is an example of how the ophthalmologists are in danger of contracting viruses from patients. Dr. Li contracted the virus from an asymptomatic glaucoma patient in early January. In many of the interviews, he confirmed that the patient had a fever and the CT scan also showed an unknown virus in her lung. After her check-up, Dr. Li started coughing, became febrile and was hospitalized. Tests confirmed he was infected with the coronavirus on January 31. The Chinese Ophthalmological Society (COS) posted a public tribute to Dr. Li. Dr. Li leaves behind a child and a wife, who is pregnant.
To protect against this danger potential threat in the ophthalmology practice, it is compulsory to follow some strategies by the ophthalmologists.
- Ophthalmologists should take care to protect their mouth, nose or eyes by wearing N95 masks, gloves, gowns, and goggles and also practice hand hygiene measures strictly.
- Decontamination and sterilization protocols of clinical rooms and equipment should also be improved as coronaviruses have been found to survive in environments outside the body for a long time.
- Shared equipment like the B-scan probe and contact lenses for photocoagulation will also need strict sterilization protocols.
- The reduction of non-urgent ophthalmic operations should also be considered as the risk of viral transmission may outweigh the surgical benefits.
- For suspect and probable cases, such patients showing the symptoms of coronavirus should be seen in an isolation ward.
- Health care providers should take help from both infection control personnel at their health care facility and the local or state health departments.
It is currently very difficult to predict the eventual impact of COVID-19, so it will be prudent to follow public health strategies until the vaccine is created. The healthcare workers are advised to be more careful among all.