August 24, 2020
Ocular Signs of COVID-19 Suggested by Internet Search Term Patterns Worldwide
Studies have suggested a possible association of coronavirus 2019
(COVID-19) with conjunctivitis, chemosis, and other ocular symptoms such as red or sore eyes. 1e 5 The estimated proportion of those with ocular symptoms, some consistent with conjunctivitis, ranges widely, from less than 1% (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Coronavirus 2019-Associated Hospitalization Surveillance Network) to more than 30%,1,5 suggesting that conjunctivitis could be a disease feature and potentially a useful diagnostic sign. More precise characterization of clinical eye presentations associated with COVID-19 infection or social distancing measures may be hindered by a marked reduction in eye care clinical
visit data as a result of sheltering in place. Moreover, observations of other life-threatening conditions take precedence in clinical documentation. Online search and social media data can reflect community seasonal clinical eye disease patterns and conjunctivitis epidemics.6 We used Google Trends data, readily available outside of a clinic environment, to investigate whether public interest in search terms related to eye conditions might suggest a surge in COVID-19 related symptoms during the COVID-19 shelter-in place months.