Message from Dr. Steve regarding the Coronavirus…             

Obviously, The Wuhan coronavirus is huge in the news. Although we don’t want to downplay the potential dangers of the coronavirus which could potentially cause conjunctivitis (pink eye), we also do not want to send the message that any case of conjunctivitis could be caused by Wuhan coronavirus and result in a panic that could be more contagious and dangerous than the virus itself.

The coronavirus family is not new and has been causing colds, flu, and conjunctivitis for a long time. Unfortunately, its family has many members whose offspring are constantly mutating into nasty new virus strains such as SARS in 2003, MERC in 2012 and now the Wuhan strain. Many of the coronavirus strains are capable of causing conjunctivitis, however the Wuhan strain seems to have a much greater liking for the lungs than the eyes.

Viruses such as the coronavirus can cause conjunctivitis that is often related to, or spreads from, a viral respiratory infection or vice versa. All of our mucous membranes (snot producers) are connected making a viral infection of the eyes transferable to the ears, nose, throat and lungs. Patients presenting with viral conjunctivitis will often have raging red eyes, fever, and other flu like symptoms. Similar to any other viral conjunctivitis, the condition will usually “run its course” and supportive medications are often prescribed to ease symptoms. Depending on the severity of the viral conjunctivitis, we often prescribe a steroid eye drop which will calm the redness and swelling and prevent complications.

Bottom Line: Hopefully this outbreak of the Wuhan strain will remain contained and currently there have been no reported cases in Minnesota. Please follow the Centers for Disease Control Protocols and contact us if you have questions or conjunctivitis concerns.

FAQ: Can the Wuhan coronavirus be transmitted though contact with tears or other secretions from the eyes? Possible, but very unlikely. Unfortunately, there is currently limited information concerning the incidence and severity of eye complications relating to the Wuhan strain of coronavirus. However, there was an unconfirmed report of a Chinese medical worker developing conjunctivitis after treating a coronavirus patient and later tested positive for Wuhan coronavirus.

– Are antibiotics effective in treating Wuhan coronavirus or other viral infections? No. Antibiotics are not effective in treating viral infections however they may be prescribed to prevent a bacterial infection that may arise in addition to the viral infection.

– Is the Wuhan coronavirus airborne? Yes. This is the primary route in which the virus spreads.

 Can the Wuhan coronavirus be transmitted by touching a contaminated surface (counter top, faucet, etc.)? Possible, but the primary route is airborne. Every virus has a certain degree of ability to survive outside of a human host making proper hand washing important in preventing all forms of viral contamination.

– Who is at greatest risk for contracting or developing severe forms of the Wuhan coronavirus? Similar to other viral infections, most at risk are the elderly or those with a compromised immune system.

 Is there a vaccine or cure for the Wuhan coronavirus? No. Research is currently ongoing for a vaccine and there are currently no antiviral medications available to treat the Wuhan coronavirus.

Dr. Steve

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