Corrective Lenses May Increase Flu Risk

Are healthcare workers who wear glasses or contacts more likely to get colds and flu? Researchers at Johns Hopkins report on a study with intriguing findings.

infectious disease, flu, respiratory illness, hospital-acquired infections, infection control

Doctors who wear eyeglasses or contact lenses may be at enhanced risk of getting respiratory infections. Further, if that is the case it is likely the viruses and bacteria responsible are coming in through the conjunctiva.

Reporting in a poster session and abstract at IDWeek 2016 in New Orleans, LA, Amanda Krosche, BS, of the Johns Hopkins University Hospital Epidemiology & Infection Control division and colleagues looked for correlations between corrective eyewear use and acute respiratory infections in health care workers.

The team tracked respiratory symptoms and took swabs whenever study participants felt an infection coming on.

The goal was to see if speculation that microbes might enter the body through the eyes, instead of the nose and mouth, was a valid hypothesis.

There were 1,386 participants who wear glasses, 145 who use contacts, and 576 who wear both. Controls were 1,234 people who do not wear corrective lenses.

The project covered 12 weeks in two respiratory virus seasons in 2013-2014 and 2014-2015. Participant worked at seven different facilities.

Though they found the proportion of positive swabs did not differ substantially across groups, the exception was rhinovirus/enterovirus.

Serology identified a difference in flu infection with 10.3% of the contact wears and 9.6% of those who wear glasses infected with flu compared to 7.3% of those who did not wear corrective lenses.

In addition, there was a “marked higher rate of influenza B infection in the contacts group.”

The team concluded that “Use of corrective eyewear affected the rate of respiratory infection in health care professionals,” and that contact lenses carried the greater risk. “The conjunctiva as a potential route of entry for respiratory pathogens requires further study,” the team reported.

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