Early on in the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers determined that the virus, most commonly spread via respiratory droplets entering the nose and mouth, could also be transmitted via the eyes. Now, a new study published in The Lancet claims that using proper eye protection—including goggles, visors, and face shields—could offer three times the protection of going without them.
It Can Be Effective in “Community Settings”
Researchers reviewed data from 172 studies from 16 countries and six continents, finding that transmission risk dropped from 16 to 5.5 percent on average for those who wore eye protection compared to people who went without them. The study claims that wearing such eye protection can make COVID-19 transmission—as well as the transmission of other similar viruses such as SARS and MERS—three times less likely.
Currently, the CDC only recommends eye protection for healthcare workers. However, the study authors point out that for the general public, “eye protection is typically under-considered,” even though it can be “effective in community settings.”
The researchers do point out that the best method to protect against coronavirus is a combination of all the proven prevention methods—physical distancing, face masks, hand-washing, and eye protection. They hope their finding will help influence future recommendations on how to protect against the virus.
“Our findings are the first to synthesize all direct information on COVID-19, SARS, and MERS, and provide the currently best available evidence on the optimum use of these common and simple interventions to help “flatten the curve” and inform pandemic response efforts in the community,” Professor Holger Schünemann from McMaster University in Canada, who co-led the research, said in an accompanying press release. “Governments and the public health community can use our results to give clear advice for community settings and healthcare workers on these protective measures to reduce infection risk.”
They Are Urgently Needed
They also hope the government and policymakers will be inspired to make sure that all healthcare workers have access to suitable PPE equipment.
“With respirators such as N95s, surgical masks, and eye protection in short supply, and desperately needed by healthcare workers on the front lines of treating COVID-19 patients, increasing and repurposing of manufacturing capacity is urgently needed to overcome global shortages,” co-author Dr. Derek Chu, Assistant Professor at McMaster University, added. “We also believe that solutions should be found for making face masks available to the general public. However, people must be clear that wearing a mask is not an alternative to physical distancing, eye protection or basic measures such as hand hygiene, but might add an extra layer of protection.”
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