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CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8 | cbs8.com

VERIFY: Can you get the virus through your eyes?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is only recommending eye protection for workers in areas where there's a high risk of infection.

SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — COVID-19 can spread in several ways, and one News 8 viewer reached out asking if the deadly virus can be transmitted through the eyes.

The answer: "Yes, it is possible, but highly unlikely," said Dr. Greg Steele, Optometry Division Chief at Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group. "Coronavirus is a respiratory virus so it's much more likely to get in through the mouth or nose, there are mucus membranes in there. We also have some mucus membranes on the front of our eye, so technically yes it can, it's just incredibly unlikely."

Should people consider using eye protection?

Dr. Steele said no, unless an individual is working in close contact with those who may be sick.

"For first responders or anybody working around the eyes. For example, here in the clinic we've added some additional things so that's why you see first responders with the face shields. Here at the clinic at Sharp Rees-Stealy, we've added a plexiglass shield to all of our microscopes to just add that extra layer of protection," he said.

What about reports of individuals who claim they contracted the virus through the eyes?

For example, one man, who happens to be a doctor, claims he got it on a crowded flight, while wearing a mask.

At this point, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is only recommending eye protection for workers in areas where there's a high risk of infection.

For everyone else, follow these simple tips:

Avoid rubbing your eyes, and wash your hands often.

"Hand washing is by far the most important thing to be doing," said Dr. Steele.

If you see a story online or hear a rumor you want verified, let us know. Email us at verify@kfmb.com. 

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