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Invited Commentary
March 31, 2020

Humans, Viruses, and the Eye—An Early Report From the COVID-19 Front Line

Author Affiliations
  • 1Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Wilmer Eye Institute at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland
JAMA Ophthalmol. 2020;138(5):578-579. doi:10.1001/jamaophthalmol.2020.1294

Viruses have always been part of the human experience, most often in a delicate balance, otherwise the virus and its human host would become extinct. But this relationship is not particularly stable. Like all living substances, viruses mutate, sometimes in ways that cause explosive, severe disease. Viral outbreaks have killed off virtually entire populations, as happened when measles was first introduced into the previously naive population of the Faroe Islands, or when Europeans brought smallpox to North America. Humankind, as a whole, has survived evolving viral threats by evolving with them; prior exposure to related viruses produces varying degrees of resistance (immunity) to new strains. Humans with less resistance die, often despite modern medical intervention, while others remain entirely asymptomatic. Medical interventions (principally vaccines) and stringent public health measures have often altered the outcome, but not necessarily in predictable ways.

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