Is Covid airborne? What does that mean?

A paper published in the journal The Lancet(Trish Greenhalgh et al.), including experts from the UK, USA, and Canada, mentioned that there is substantial evidence to deduce that coronavirus is airborne, dismissing the predominant scientific view that the SARS-CoV-2 virus is not an airborne pathogen.

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“There is consistent, strong evidence that SARS-CoV-2 spreads by airborne transmission. Although other routes can contribute, we believe that the airborne route is likely to be dominant. The public health community should act accordingly and without further delay” — the Lancet

What is an airborne pathogen?

Any disease-causing organism which can be transmitted through the air comes under the category of airborne pathogen

Airborne diseases are caused by pathogenic microbes small enough to be discharged from an infected person via coughing, sneezing, laughing, and close personal contact or aerosolization of the microbe.
The discharged microbes remain suspended in the air on dust particles, respiratory and water droplets. Illness is caused when the microbe is inhaled or contacts mucus membranes or when secretions remaining on a surface are touched.
Airborne pathogens cause an inflammatory reaction of the upper airways affecting the nose, sinuses, throat, and lungs

10 reasons why the coronavirus is airborne:

1.Superspreader events and long-range transmission.
Super-spreader events resulting in multiple infections from a single source. Studies have confirmed these events cannot be adequately explained by close contact or touching shared surfaces or objects

2.Quarantine hotels and long-range transmission
long-range transmission of SARS-CoV-2 between people in adjacent rooms but never in each other’s presence has been documented in quarantine hotels

3.Silent transmission
Asymptomatic or presymptomatic transmission of SARS-CoV-2 from people who are not coughing or sneezing.

4.Higher indoor transmission reduced by indoor ventilation
Reduced rate of transmission at places with efficient ventilation systems.

5.Nosocomial infections also referred to as healthcare-associated infections
A nosocomial infection or a hospital-acquired infection is contracted because of an infection or toxin that exists in a certain location, such as a hospital. Cases were reported where there have been strict contact-and-droplet precautions but no protection to aerosol exposure.

6.Viable presence of SARS-CoV-2 in the air.
Viable (infectious) SARS-CoV-2 was present in aerosols within the hospital room of COVID-19 patients in the absence of aerosol-generating healthcare procedures.

7.Presence of the virus in air filters and building ducts which can be reached only by aerosols

8.Animal to Animal transmission via air-duct
Studies involving animals residing in separate cages connected via ducts demonstrated transmission of the virus.

9.No conclusive evidence to refute the hypothesis of airborne SARS-CoV-2 transmission
Another argument during the study was that no research has yet provided strong or rational evidence to contradict the hypothesis of airborne SARS-CoV-2 transmission.

10.Limited evidence to support other dominant routes of transmission — ie, respiratory droplet or fomite.
The team found little to no evidence that the virus spreads easily via large droplets. In diseases where pathogen concentrations have been quantified by particle size, smaller aerosols showed higher pathogen concentrations than droplets.

How to handle the spread if it's airborne?

Based on conclusive studies, it has to be acknowledged that the virus is airborne, and thus there are methods to fix it.

Efficient Ventilation systems
If it’s accepted that one can inhale enough virus to cause infection when over 2 m away from the original source — even after the original source has left — then measures such as upgrading ventilation, heating and air conditioning systems need to be in place and hence enabling air replacement or air cleaning.

Better quality masks and higher grade PPE
It is important to provide attention to masks with higher quality and fit. Surgical masks should be recommended. It is also important to procure higher-grade PPE kits for front-line workers.

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The study has serious implications for public health measures designed to contain the spread of the virus. Authorities, governments, and health leaders should take into consideration, allocate resources towards research, and focus their efforts on containing airborne transmission of the SARS-CoV-2. Safe indoor environments with efficient ventilation systems and increased air conditioning are required particularly in healthcare, work, and educational surroundings.
The public health community should act accordingly and without further delay.

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Apoorv Bhargava

Apoorv Bhargava

I like to walk through the narrow streets