As the world struggles to contain the spread of the CCP Virus (COVID-19), scientists have made an alarming discovery, and it may affect the way the virus is handled in the months to come.
Airborne transmission of the CCP Virus via tiny droplets could be infectious for hours, with the current practices of social distancing not enough to prevent infection, saID hundreds of health experts.
Lidia Morawska, a professor of atmospheric sciences and environmental engineering at Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia, is one of the scientists who wrote a letter. “We are 100 percent sure about this,” she told AAP.
Jose Jimenez, a University of Colorado professor of chemistry at the University of Colorado who also signed the letter, said the information will make it easier to control the virus in the future. “It’s not like the virus has changed,” he said. “We think the virus has been transmitted this way all along, and knowing about it helps protect us.”
The World Health Organization (WHO) so far has only recognized aerosolized transmission in health care settings through “aerosol-generating procedures.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said, “Airborne transmission from person-to-person over long distances is unlikely.”
An open letter signed by 239 health experts urges the international science community to take the airborne capability of the virus seriously.
According to the letter, published on July 6 in the journal for Clinical Infectious Diseases, although heavier respiratory droplets usually don’t span out more than 6 feet from an infected person, aerosolized droplets can cover a whole room, and furthermore, hang suspended in the air for several hours. This discovery comes as cases of infection in the United States are on the increase.
“There is significant potential for inhalation exposure to viruses in microscopic respiratory droplets (micro-droplets) at short to medium distances (up to several meters, or room-scale), and we are advocating for the use of preventive measures to mitigate this route of airborne transmission,” the experts wrote.
In the open letter, scientists recommend taking the following measures to mitigate airborne transmission risk:
1.Provide sufficient and effective ventilation by supplying clean outdoor air and minimizing recirculating air in public buildings, offices, schools, hospitals, and nursing homes.
2. Supplement general ventilation with airborne infection controls such as exhaust, high-efficiency air filtration, and germicidal ultraviolet lights.
3. Avoid overcrowding, particularly in public transport and buildings.
Dr. Matthew Heinz, a hospitalist at Tucson Medical Center in Arizona, said there is enough anecdotal evidence to show infection from airborne particles is possible. “I think that it is true that we don’t have a complete picture in terms of evidence as whether they’re confirmed to be infectious,” he said. “But on the front lines … it seems (airborne transmission) is happening based on who I’m admitting and their described behavior.”
Heinz said social distancing between people may need to be increased from the present distance of 6 feet to 15 or 20 feet, reported USA Today. “Even crowded together outside in an open-air situation is still a problem,” he said. “We really need to be more cautious upfront.”
Frank Esper, a physician at the Cleveland Clinic Children’s Center for Pediatric Infectious Diseases, said social distancing has worked in reducing infections, and he sees more stringent controls unnecessary and impractical, reported USA Today.
“Am I surprised that aerosolization is one component of the virus spread? No,” he said. “Obviously, we want transmission to be zero, but we still really need to focus on what are the major modes of spread from person to person and place to place.”
“No one is saying this is playing the entire role, but what the scientists are trying to say is that we need to pay more attention in preparation for resurging cases that we expect to occur in the months to come,” Esper said.