The deadly respiratory disease is so contagious it can be transmitted through the eyes according to a top medic who believes he was infected because he did not have protective eyewear.
The respiratory specialist at Beijing’s Peking University First Hospital, Wang Guangfa, who was a leading figure in helping China fight Sars in 2003, confirmed he had contracted the coronavirus (2019-nCoV) and recovered from it in a social media post on Wednesday.
Wang had reportedly been ridiculed in some media after he contracted the disease despite saying it was “preventable and controllable” two weeks ago.
The respiratory expert has now claimed that he may have contracted the disease because of a lack of eye protection when visiting fever clinics and isolation wards in Wuhan, in Hubei province, where the outbreak emerged.
He said: “At that time we were highly vigilant and wore N95 masks. But then I suddenly realised that we didn’t wear protective glasses.”
He says he developed conjunctivitis in his left eye after returning to Beijing and around three hours later he began suffering from a fever and catarrh (excessive discharge or build-up of mucus in the nose or throat).
Wang thought he had the flu at first as he had never seen a Wuhan patient suffering from conjunctivitis before. He later took the test for the coronavirus when flu medication did not work and he tested positive.
He said the most likely explanation of him contracting the virus was it entering through his eyes.
National Health Commission expert Li Lanjuan said that staff who had direct contact with coronavirus patients needed to wear protective glasses whilst other people only need face masks.
There are currently 830 confirmed cases of patients infected with the virus in China and a small number of cases have been confirmed in other countries including the United States, Thailand, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, Vietnam and Singapore.
The latest official death toll from the virus is 26.
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