The medical facts about Mike Pence’s debate red eye

Vice President Mike Pence on Wednesday night managed to make it to the debate stage despite the fact the White House is in the middle of a coronavirus outbreak that seems to continue to grow. 

During the debate against Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris, Pence’s left eye quickly became the talk of the internet after people noticed it appeared to be red and blurry throughout his performance.

While it’s not clear why the vice president’s eye looked a bit off and he recently tested negative for COVID-19, it prompted many users to speculate on whether it could be an indication Pence may be infected with the coronavirus, as pink eye is known to be a symptom. 

 

Typical symptoms of the coronavirus include fever, cough, nasal congestion, sore throat, fatigue and shortness of breath, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

Although it’s true conjunctivitis has been seen in coronavirus patients, it appears to be a rare occurrence. 

A meta-analysis published in the Journal of Medical Virology in May found conjunctivitis occurs in about 1.1 percent of all COVID-19 cases. 

The study found pink eye was more common in severe coronavirus cases. The symptom was seen in 3 percent of severe cases compared to just 0.7 percent of mild cases. 

Conjunctivitis can be highly contagious and is typically caused by bacteria and adenoviruses that can spread easily from person to person, so COVID-19 is certainly not the only possible infectious cause of eye redness. 

It’s also a giant leap to make the claim Pence was experiencing pink eye to begin with, let alone that it was brought on by the coronavirus. Redness in the eyes can be caused by a long list of possibilities such as dry eyes, allergies and broken blood vessels in the eye. 

As President Trump and several other White House officials, aides and advisers have tested positive for COVID-19 over the past week, Pence tested negative for the virus on Tuesday and “has remained healthy, without any COVID-19 symptoms,” according to his physician Jess Schonau. 

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