Bob Costas, NBC’s primetime host for the Sochi Winter Olympics broadcast, began coverage on Thursday, February 6 wearing glasses instead of contact lenses because of a seemingly minor eye infection in his left eye. Over the weekend, however, the infection spread to his other eye, causing Costas to temporarily step down and hand over hosting duties to Matt Lauer, co-host of NBC’s Today show.
Viral conjunctivitis, also commonly called “pink eye” is an infection of the mucous membrane that line the eyelid and eye surface. The membrane becomes red and swollen. Symptoms include swollen and tender eyelids, red eyes, itching or burning sensation of the eyelids, tearing and drainage. There are several causes of conjunctivitis, including viral or bacterial infections.
Viral eye infections can be incredibly contagious, and there is no specific treatment or cure so preventing the spread of infection is important. It can easily spread to both eyes, and can be passed to others if they use towels that have touched infected eyes or touch surfaces that were touched by the infected person after he or she touched the infected eye.
While Costas initially believed the infection would clear up quickly, it has rapidly worsened and spread from his left eye to the right eye. This is common with adenoviral conjunctivitis. Typically conjunctivitis clears up on its own without medical intervention in 7 to 10 days. Some treatments are available to alleviate the symptoms like itching and burning, however.
To avoid spreading the infection, use precautions similar to avoid spreading other illnesses like the flu. Wash your hands frequently, especially after touching your eyes. Avoid touching common shared surfaces like doorknobs or computer keyboards. Don’t share towels, which can transmit the disease and avoid shaking hands.
Adenoviral conjunctivitis usually clears up without causing damage. In rare instances, corneal keratitis may result in permanent scarring, leading to a residual loss of vision.
If you experience symptoms of illness, infection and conjunctivitis, please see your ophthalmologist or eye care professional.
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