The coronavirus that causes the COVID 19 disease is a pandemic that has infected 12,89,380 (at the last count) and killed over 70,000 people across the globe since it first broke out in China in the month of November last year.
The disease causes respiratory illness (like the flu) with symptoms such as a cough, fever, and in more severe cases, difficulty breathing. But the novel coronavirus strain is still new and it is still being studied.
Late last month, researchers finally learned that loss of smell also known as anosmia occurs in patients after they contract the viral coronavirus. Now there is more as even pain in the eye could be a symptom for coronavirus.
Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, data scientist and author of NYT Bestseller book Everybody Lies, in an op-ed in the New York Times wrote that based on Google Trends, there is evidence that suggests eye pain could also be considered a symptom of the virus.
Even before researchers finally established a loss of smell as a coronavirus symptom, hundreds of possibly infected patients in Italy were searching on Google for "non sento odori" ("I can't smell").
As per the Google Trends analysis, the most common coronavirus related search queries are loss of smell, fever, and chills. While nasal congestion and diarrhea were fifth and sixth on the search terms.
It is the fourth most searched term - eye pain - that has now caught the eye (quite literally) of researchers as it could be a possible symptom of the COVID 19.
"Searches for "my eyes hurt" over the previous week were highest in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Louisiana, and Michigan. Such searches seem to have risen in the past two weeks almost exclusively in parts of the country that have reached very high COVID-19 rates," Stephens-Davidowitz revealed.
There is evidence to suggest that search queries related to eye pain show a spike in Spain and in Iran prior to the rise in the number of coronavirus cases in both countries. In Italy, for example, that has witnessed one of the highest coronavirus related fatalities,Google search for "bruciore occhi" ("burning eyes") was unusually high in the month of March.
While the pain in the eye symptom is still something that is being studied, most recently a registered nurse in a nursing home in Washington state with a large COVID-19 outbreak reported that red-eye was a common early sign in elderly patients who then became sick with COVID-19.
"It's something that I witnessed in all of them (the patients). They have, like ... allergy eyes. The white part of the eye is not red. It's more like they have red eye shadow on the outside of their eyes," Chelsey Earnest told CNN.