WHO takes in consideration the study on airborne spread of Covid-19

The World Health Organization (WHO) is reviewing a report, which calls on the health organization to update guidance on the novel coronavirus, news wires reported. More than 200 scientists wrote a letter to the Geneva-based agency, noting evidence the virus can spread in tiny airborne particles.

The WHO says SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, spreads primarily through small droplets expelled from the nose and mouth of an infected person that quickly sink to the ground. But in their open letter, published on Monday in the Clinical Infectious Diseases journal, 239 scientists in 32 countries outlined evidence that they say shows floating virus particles can infect people who breathe them in. Because those smaller particles can linger in the air, the scientists are urging WHO to update its guidance. How frequently the coronavirus can spread by the airborne or aerosol route - as opposed to by larger droplets in coughs and sneezes - is not clear.

"We are aware of the article and are reviewing its contents with our technical experts," WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic said on Monday in an email. Any change in the WHO's assessment of risk of transmission could affect its current advice on keeping 1-metre of physical distancing. Governments, which rely on the agency for guidance policy, may also have to adjust public health measures aimed at curbing the spread of the virus.

Although the WHO has said it is considering aerosols as a possible route of transmission, it has yet to be convinced that the evidence warrants a change in guidance. Dr. Michael Osterholm, an infectious disease expert at the University of Minnesota, said the WHO has long been reluctant to acknowledge aerosol transmission of influenza, "in spite of compelling data," and sees the current controversy as part of that simmering debate.

Professor Babak Javid, an infectious disease consultant at Cambridge University Hospitals, said airborne transmission of the virus is possible and even likely, but said evidence over how long the virus stays airborne is lacking.

If it can hang in the air for long periods of time, even after an infected person leaves that space, that could affect the measures healthcare workers and others take to protect themselves. WHO guidance to health workers, dated from 29 June, says SARS-CoV-2 is primarily transmitted through respiratory droplets and on surfaces.

But airborne transmission is possible in some circumstances, such as when performing intubation and aerosol-generating procedures, the WHO says. They advise medical workers performing such procedures to wear heavy duty N95 respiratory masks and other protective equipment in an adequately ventilated room.

 

 

More on this subject: Coronavirus

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