A potentially disturbing story regarding the spread of coronavirus; there are reports it could be airborne.
An airborne virus can spread long after an infected person leaves the area. It’s a frightening scenario doctors know occurs with the measles.
Now, some scientists are suggesting the same is true for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
With the rapidly changing information on this novel coronavirus, here’s what we know right now.
Droplets from an infected person are carried through the air when someone coughs or sneezes. If another person inhales those virus-filled particles, they can get infected.
Those droplets can spread and those droplets typically don’t travel more than about six feet. So, if you come into contact with those respiratory droplets, particularly if those respiratory droplets come in contact with your eyes, mouth, or nose, you can become infected”, Dr. Larry Kociolek, Lurie Children’s infectious disease expert said.
That person-to-person spread is behind the wisdom for wearing masks when people are in contact with others, strangers or friends and family who could have no symptoms and still have the virus.
“Masking in public is going to prevent infection regardless of the mode of transmission,” Dr. Kociolek said.
The New York Times reports 239 scientists in 32 countries are pointing to evidence that the coronavirus can spread beyond person-to-person contact. They are reportedly poised to publish their findings about SARS-CoV-2 lingering in the air.
The World Health Organization, however, calls the evidence “not convincing.” So is the virus airborne?
“The virus can be transmitted by the airborne route,” said Dr. Kociolek. “The difference is whether or not you consider that the predominant mode of transmission, or a possible but less dominant, mode of transmission.”
Multiple tests have been conducted to show exactly how far the virus that causes COVID-19 is launched from people who are infected and contagious in work spaces, those at nearby desks get sick in clusters, while those in private offices in the same building do not.
“I don’t think airborne spread is the predominant mode of acquisition, but it certainly does contribute to some infections,” he said. “I think we need to be aware of it. The difficulty becomes how you prevent it. If you only social distance without taking measures to prevent this airborne spread, then social distancing alone will be less effective.”
Reseachers don’t have enough information on the virus at this time.
“We know with measles they will just sort of spread and fill the room. With COVID-19, we don’t know. We do know that, in some of these super-spreading events, where they have been able to identify where in the room the infected individual was and those who became infected, we do know air flow will spread from the area where air is being pushed into the room towards the return where air is being pulled out of the room,” Dr. Kociolek said. “So, if you are in the path of the air current with somebody who is ill, you may be at higher risk.”
It also depends on the building itself. Hospitals for example have better air flow systems versus older bars and even churches. Doctors still say the best advice is the be safe and wear a mask.