New Orleans: A doctor and TV news contributor hospitalised with severe coronavirus believes he contracted the virus "through his eyes" while on a recent flight in the US.

Epidemiologist and virologist Dr Joseph Fair became sick three days after catching a crowded flight to his home in New Orleans that was “packed in like sardines,” according to a report on Thursday.

Dr Joseph Fair, who has spent decades studying deadly viruses such as Ebola, was wearing a mask and gloves on the April 24 plane trip to New Orleans but fell critically ill soon after.

“I had a mask on. I had gloves on. I did my normal wipes routine, everything like that. But, you know, obviously you can still get it through your eyes,” Fair, 42, told NBC’s “Today” show in an interview from his hospital bed.

He said the airline did not abide by social distancing measures — which he believes led to him catching the virus after droplets touched his eyes. He didn’t reveal the name of the airline he flew on or where he was coming from.

“You know, that’s one of the three known routes of getting this infection that we don’t pay a lot of attention to. We tend to focus on the nose and mouth because that’s the most common route,” he said.

“Droplets landing on your eyes are just as infectious and of course I wasn’t wearing goggles on the flight.”

Four days after the flight, Fair said, he became sick with severe flu-like symptoms that spiraled into “a kind of walking pneumonia,” landing him in a hospital.

Dr Fair said his symptoms began with him losing his sense of taste, and progressed to him only being able to take in 25% oxygen. At this point he went to hospital.

He required oxygen treatment in the hospital after he asked not to be intubated. Dr Fair is no longer in a critical condition and has since tested negative for the virus.

He warned others not to be complacent about coronavirus, saying he was a runner and before contracting the virus he felt he was in the "peak condition" of his life.

"You don't want to have it, that's all I have to tell you," Dr Fair said.