Airborne Transmission: Is COVID-19 Airborne?

Emerging evidence is showing that COVID-19 might be able to cause airborne transmission according to the World Health Organization. A group of scientists sent a letter to the organization urging WHO to acknowledge its guidance on how to help limit the spread of the virus. Many have looked towards Benedetta Allegranzi, WHO’s technical lead for infection prevention and control for direction.

COVID-19 Might Be Airborne

Allegranzi stated that the organization must be open to the evidence that COVID-19 might be airborne. “We acknowledge that there is emerging evidence in this field, as in all other fields regarding the COVID-19 virus and pandemic,” Allegranzi said. The letter from which can be found here contained signatures from over 200 scientists urging the WHO to address their findings.“ The possibility of airborne transmission in public settings – especially in very specific conditions, crowded, closed, poorly ventilated settings that have been described, cannot be ruled out,” she said.  Currently, the Health organization has stated that the disease has been spread through large airborne droplets from sneezing and coughing, which has caused the need for mandatory face masks in most countries. However, researchers from 32 different countries believe that smaller respiratory particles can linger in the air and infect people through being inhaled by those in the area.

Change in Social Distancing Measures

Maria Van Kerkhove, technical lead on the COVID-19 pandemic at WHO, said that the organization is preparing a scientific brief on modes of transmission that will be released in the coming days. “We have been talking about the possibility of airborne transmission and aerosol transmission as one of the modes of transmission of COVID-19,” Van Kerkhove said.

Scientist Jose Jimenez, a chemist at the University of Colorado who signed the paper, wants acknowledgment for the urgent findings. “This is definitely not an attack on the WHO. It’s a scientific debate, but we felt we needed to go public because they were refusing to hear the evidence after many conversations with them,” he said in a telephone interview. If any changes are made in the WHO’s assessment of transmission risk could change the current advice of 3.3 feet of social distancing. Governments who follow the guidance policy will have to adjust public health measures aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19.

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