Fever, tiredness, dry cough, aches and pains, sore throat and diarrhea are the common symptoms of COVID-19. But a veteran nurse in Washington said the list should include redness around the eyes since it appears in almost all patients with the virus, especially the sickest ones.
Chelsey Earnest treated COVID-19 patients at the Life Care Center in Kirkland, Washington, which previously saw a large number of cases with 37 deaths. She said that during her time at the center, she and other staff noticed red eyes became the most reliable sign of novel coronavirus infection.
“It’s something that I witnessed in all of them. They have, like … allergy eyes,” Earnest told CNN. “The white part of the eye is not red. It’s more like they have red eye shadow on the outside of their eyes.”
Doctors from another hospital also reported that many COVID-19 patients had red eyes. Earnest said that there were patients at Life Care Center that did not exhibit the most common symptoms of COVID-19, such as fever, tiredness and dry cough, but they all appeared with redness around the eyes.
“We’ve had patients that just had the red eyes as the only symptom that we saw and go to the hospital and pass away,” Earnest said. “I’ve even had the disaster medical control physician say, ‘Do they have the red eyes?’ And I will say yes. And he’ll say, ‘I’ll find you a bed.’ It’s just something about this, the way that it affects these patients.”
The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) issued its updated alert warning for doctors early this week. It said a “mild follicular conjunctivitis otherwise indistinguishable from other viral causes and possibly be transmitted by aerosol contact with conjunctiva.”
The AAO recommends that ophthalmologists wear protective equipment that will cover their mouth, nose and eyes when checking patients who exhibit symptoms of conjunctivitis along with shortness of breath, fever and cough.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has yet to add conjunctivitis or eye redness to its official list of symptoms of COVID-19.