Here's cold virus in your eye! (Possible?)

I was in a public place today, and one man was standing closely enough to me, and at the right angle, for me to feel an exhaled breath in my eye (past my glasses).

Now, with H1N1 in the news, that got me wondering: given that rubbing or touching your eyes with your fingers is an easy and much publicized way to get minor illnesses, is it possible for someone to give you a cold/swine flu/whatever just by breathing in your eye? I can’t think of a reason why not, but I wasn’t sure.

Thanks in advance for satisfying my curiosity.

One potential reason why is the receptors that the virus latches onto in order to infiltrate the cell. Different tissues have different receptors on the cells. So it’s entirely possible that influenza simply can’t latch onto a corneal cell.

But it’s all rather moot anyway. If the aerosol strikes your eye then the air must be full of it, and for every microlitre that enters your eye several litres are going to enter your lungs. So in reality it makes no difference at all.

As a rule of thumb, the conjunctival membranes of the eye are considered potential pathways for transmission of viruses and bacteria, although they are not as primary as the respiratory and GI tracts. Nevertheless they have the potential to be a route of entry and exposure of the eye to contaminated fluid is considered to be a risk for most viruses–HIV being a classic example.

The status of H1N1 is unknown, as far as I know, for transmissability through exposure to the eye conjunctivae.
*"Transmission via large-particle droplets requires close contact between source and recipient persons because droplets
do not remain suspended in the air and generally travel only a short distance (< 6 feet). Contact with contaminated surfaces is another
possible source of transmission and transmission via droplet nuclei (also called “airborne” transmission). *Because data on the transmission
of novel H1N1 viruses are limited, the potential for ocular, conjunctival, or gastrointestinal infection is unknown."[/B[

Nevertheless, droplet exposure from a cough or sneeze or moisture-laden breath directly onto your conjunctivae from another individual actively shedding the virus should reasonably be expected to be a potential route of transmission. This is not the same as saying that if you stand near a quietly breathing H1N1 carrier you are going to get infected.

I think things from the eye drain down the tear duct and create infections in the pharynx. Aerosols of all kinds will land on the surface of the eye like any other surface.