This information was accurate at the time of publication. Due to the changing nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, some information may have changed since the original publication date.
"Patients have asked if their pink eye could be the first symptom of COVID-19," according to Moran Eye Center ophthalmologist Jeff Pettey, MD. "The answer is, without the common symptoms of fever, cough, or shortness of breath, it is highly, highly unlikely."
The American Academy of Ophthalmology notes that while the coronavirus may cause pink eye in rare cases (experts believe it develops in just 1 percent to 3 percent of people with the disease), it doesn't appear to be a stand-alone symptom of COVID-19.
So just because someone has pink eye, it doesn't mean they're infected with coronavirus. However, if they are infected, the virus could spread by touching fluid from their eyes, or from objects carrying the fluid.
What Should You Do If You Have Pink Eye?
Although it does not indicate coronavirus infection on its own, pink eye is highly contagious.
Learn all about the symptoms and precautions needed to stop the spread of conjunctivitis and whether or not you should treat it on your own or call your doctor.
If you do call your regular physician or eye doctor during the COVID-19 pandemic, chances are you may be diagnosed online, by way of telemedicine. Since pink eye can be assessed visually, telemedicine is an excellent option.
"If your only symptom is pink eye, follow your doctor's advice," Pettey said. "Most pink eye will go away on its own in a week or two."