The novel coronavirus, now called SARS-CoV-2, may be airborne, according to some scientists adding there’s evidence that even smaller particles in the air can infect people. Earlier, researchers have reported that the airborne transmission route for the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, is highly virulent and dominant.
The coronavirus outbreak, which was declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) on March 11, 2020, has so far infected as many as 11,343,890 people and caused at least 531,789 deaths worldwide.
According to a report in the New York Times, some 239 scientists in 32 countries have written to the WHO, urging the UN health agency to revise its recommendations. However, WHO said the evidence for the virus being airborne was not convincing, the report added. WHO’s current guidance on COVID-19 is based on its claim that the virus spreads through large droplets generated from a person infected with COVID-19.
WHO has long held that the SARS-CoV-2 virus spreads primarily between people through respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The agency, in its latest update, has said that airborne transmission of coronavirus was possible only after medical procedures that generate aerosols, or droplets smaller than 5 microns.
Is COVID-19 airborne? How to protect yourself against an airborne infection
While it is yet to be confirmed whether COVID-19 is an airborne disease, questions have been raised about the routes of transmission for the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Perhaps, experts argue that existing evidence is strong enough to warrant engineering controls targetting airborne transmission as part of an overall strategy to limit infection risk particularly indoors. Scientists and doctors are still learning about COVID-19 and information regarding this new virus is being updated accordingly.
Talking to Times Now Digital, Dr. SN Aravinda, Consultant, Internal Medicine, Aster RV Hospital, Bangalore, suggests some measures that can help reduce one’s risk of contracting or spreading COVID-19, as well as airborne infections:
1. Avoid large gatherings of people as airborne diseases can spread easily.
2. It is a must to maintain some kind of barrier in front of the face, which decreases the risk of coming into contact with an airborne microbe and stops microbes present inside the body from diffusing rapidly into the atmosphere.
3. At an individual level, people must wear face masks and practice social distancing.
4. Rooms with good ventilation are helpful to clear the air quickly.
5. People who are coughing/sneezing must not do it openly, rather, they should cough/sneeze into a handkerchief or into the elbow to reduce airborne transmission.
6. Additionally, avoid touching the face, nose, and eyes.
What are airborne diseases?
Airborne diseases are spread by tiny pathogens – bacteria, fungi, viruses – in the air. They can spread when people with certain infections sneeze, cough, talk. A person can also spread the disease through phlegm.
Airborne diseases include:
Whooping cough (pertussis)
Many airborne diseases have symptoms similar to the common cold and flu, and may include – cough, sore throat, runny nose, chill, muscle and body aches, fatigue, headache, congestion, sinus pressure, etc.
While it’s not possible to completely avoid airborne pathogens, here are some additional measures you can take to reduce your risk of getting sick:
1. Regularly wash your hands thoroughly for at least 20 seconds
2. Avoid close contact with those who are sick or have active symptoms of the disease
3. Stay home when you’re unwell.
4. Wear a face mask to prevent spreading or breathing in germs – especially if you must be around others.
5. Cover your mouth or nose when coughing or sneezing.
6. Avoid touching your face or others with unwashed hands.
7. Vaccines can help airborne diseases such as chickenpox, diphtheria, influenza, measles, mum reduce a person’s chances of contracting airborne diseases such as whooping cough, etc.