KIRKLAND,WASHINGTON (VINnews) — A new symptom of the coronavirus has emerged which could aid in identifying patients with the contagious disease. Nurse Chelsey Earnest is a life care worker who was called in to help at the Life Care Center in Kirkland,Washington which has been hardest hit by COVID-19, with 36 patients and one visitor having died at the facility. Earnest told CNN that as she worked with coronavirus patients, she began to notice that the sickest ones had a single thing in common.
“It’s something that I witnessed in all of them,” Earnest said. “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. But we’ve had patients who’ve just had the red eyes as the only symptom we saw and they go to go the hospital and pass away,” ”
Rapid breathing and a cough were the other two hallmarks, she said. But to a person, everyone infected with coronavirus at the Kirkland care facility that proved to the be outbreak’s epicenter in Washington State had the distinct “red eye” look of allergy sufferers, nurses recounted Tuesday to CNN.
It was marked enough to generate a cautionary warning from the American Academy Of Opthalmology, which announced that “several reports suggest the virus can cause conjunctivitis and possibly be transmitted by aerosol contact with conjunctiva.”
It’s one of several symptoms that are emerging as indicators of corona infection. Another one is the loss of the senses of smell and taste. Enough anecdotal evidence exists to prompt the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery to call for that to be added to the official list of symptoms.
Earnest and colleagues interviewed by CNN also described the horrific switch from barely sick to barely living that they saw time and time again in these patients.
“It’s an invisible invader,” Earnest said. “And I described it as chasing the devil, ’cause that’s what it was like.”
She also explained how the virus spread due to the warmth and care demonstrated by unwitting staff.
“There’s usually two patients to a room. Some of the rooms are bigger and have three patients and you have care-giving staff who are very close to their residents. We hug them, we kiss them, we love them. I couldn’t have been perfect on my PPE (personal protective equipment).”
The Kirkland center came under criticism due to the high mortality rate from the virus. Investigators from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services found three “immediate jeopardy” situations, when a patient’s safety is in immediate danger. They say Life Care failed to rapidly identify sick patients, failed to notify the State Department of Health about the increasing rate of respiratory infections, and didn’t have a backup plan when the facility’s primary clinician got sick.
Earnest , who described Life Care as a war zone “where supplies are limited, the help is slow to get to you, and there’s lot of casualties” admits freely that she was unprepared for such a potent virus.
“I didn’t expect it to be so lethal. And I have no shame in saying, I was wrong.”