The researchers noted that it is still important for people to cover their eyes, hands, and mouth to avoid virus particles spread from another person.
Although it is well understood that the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) can be transmitted through mucus and droplets expelled by coughing or sneezing, new research published in Ophthalmology, the journal of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, has found that there is a low risk of transmission via tears.
Notably, none of the studied patients had conjunctivitis, which is believed to develop in approximately 1% to 3% of patients with COVID-19.
Researchers from the National University Hospital in Singapore collected tear samples from 17 patients with COVID-19 between the time that they showed symptoms until they recovered approximately 20 days later. The tears were analyzed using viral culture and reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction, neither of which detected the virus throughout the 2-week course of the disease.
The researchers also collected samples from the back of the nose and throat during the same time period, and found significant amounts of the virus.
The researchers noted that it is still important for people to cover their eyes, hands, and mouth to avoid virus particles spread from another person. Although people are most likely to inhale these droplets through the mouth or nose, it is possible for them to enter via the eyes.
Low Risk of Coronavirus Spreading Through Tears [news release]. American Academy of Ophthalmology; March 25, 2020. https://www.aao.org/newsroom/news-releases/detail/low-risk-of-coronavirus-spreading-through-tears. Accessed March 26, 2020.