Help prevent the spreading of infectious diseases

December 9, 2015
In the height of flu season, use AOA resources to detect symptoms and treat patients.

During the holidays, as travel and family gatherings commence, so, too, does flu season. And while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention encourage people to protect themselves through vaccination, the AOA reminds members of the role optometry plays in fighting infectious diseases.

Doctors of optometry and other health care providers should have a clear understanding of the appropriate protocols to follow to prevent the spread of disease. Vigilance is key, says Christopher Quinn, O.D., former liaison trustee to the AOA Clinical Resources Group (CRG), which created information for doctors about infectious diseases such as influenza and other viral infections, in the wake of last year's Ebola outbreak.

"Any time you're dealing with a patient with a potentially infectious disease, you want to be very cautious in making sure you apply universal precautions against the spread of infection," Dr. Quinn advises.

Using good hygiene in the office when in contact with bodily fluids such as tears will go a long way toward preventing infection, Dr. Quinn says.

Watch out for adenovirus

Like other health care professionals, doctors of optometry often see viral infections rise at this time of year. But according to Dr. Quinn, most cases of conjunctivitis or eye infections aren't linked to traditional influenza. Rather, adenovirus is the infection most commonly associated with "pink eye."

Patients with adenovirus often develop redness first in one eye, with the other eye showing signs of infection several days later. They may present with fever or tearing of the eye, or have a recent history with acute upper respiratory infection.

"Adenovirus can affect both children and adults. It's a hardy virus, and it's very contagious," Dr. Quinn says. The virus tends to occur in epidemics—which means you don't want your office to be the source of an outbreak of adenoviral conjunctivitis.

Most of the treatment for adenovirus is supportive: keeping the patient comfortable with lubricating drops, cold compresses and in some instances, topical steroid drops.

Because adenovirus can survive on nonporous surfaces for days, careful disinfection of surfaces and equipment is very important.

Oftentimes, doctors will make the diagnosis of adenoviral conjunctivitis after an exam. However, it's good practice to recognize patients who have these potentially infectious diseases as early as possible.

"Just having a high index of suspicion early on is very helpful. If you're unsure, put gloves on before examining a patient. That's going to be very helpful in preventing you from getting an infection."

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