Detection of Coronavirus Material on Environmental Surfaces of an Ophthalmology Examination Room

The new coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic poses a particular threat to health care professionals; however, there appear to be no objective data that demonstrate the risks of encountering individuals carrying the virus asymptomatically in the case of maintained elective examinations.

Aytoğan, et al. (2020) sought to investigate the presence of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) on the environmental surfaces of an ophthalmology examination room after visits by patients who were asymptomatic and had passed COVID-19 triage.

This quality improvement study was conducted one week after the first officially confirmed COVID-19 case in İzmir Tepecik Training and Research Hospital, İzmir, Turkey, on March 20, 2020. A triage system was used to determine the risk of COVID-19 from patients who were asymptomatic and presented for examination in an ophthalmology clinic. Real-time polymerase chain reaction testing was used to detect the presence of viral RNA material in samples from the biomicroscope stage, slitlamp breath shield, phoropter, tonometer, and door handles. The first group of samples was taken before the beginning of the examinations, and the second group of the samples was taken after the last patient had left the room.

Thirty-one persons visited the room, of whom 22 underwent ophthalmic examination and nine were companions. The mean (SD) examination time was nine (4) minutes (range, 5-13 minutes). Seven samples were taken before examinations and seven after examinations. Two samples that were taken after examinations were found to be positive for COVID-19, 1 from the slitlamp breath shield and one from the phoropter.

Conclusions and Relevance This study showed the presence of COVID-19 viral material in a circle 1 m in diameter around where the patients sat. However, real-time polymerase chain reaction could only detect viral material, not the infectivity of these virus samples.

Reference: Aytoğan H, et al. Detection of Coronavirus Disease 2019 Viral Material on Environmental Surfaces of an Ophthalmology Examination Room. JAMA Ophthalmol. Published online August 3, 2020. doi:10.1001/jamaophthalmol.2020.3154

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