Alarm bells have been ringing ever since WHO has acknowledged there’s emerging evidence of airborne transmission of the novel corona virus. Why? This new information changes the mode of transmission of the corona virus from what was acceptable so far.
So far WHO believed that corona virus was spread because of droplets which are released into the air when an infected person sneezes or coughs. These droplets are heavy, relatively speaking, and fall quickly to the floor or onto a surface that others might touch. This is why a distance of 6 feet or social distancing is recommended to keep you clear of these droplets. Frequent hand washing has been recommended because corona virus can be transferred to your hands when you touch an infected surface.
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Now scientists say corona virus can stay aloft for hours in tiny droplets or aerosols in stagnant air, infecting people as they inhale. Aerosols are released even when a person without symptoms exhales, talks or sings.
What are aerosols?
Most people think aerosols as a type of dispensing system which creates an aerosol mist of liquid particles, like hairspray or deodorant. But aerosols are droplets, droplets are aerosols — they do not differ except in size. Scientists sometimes refer to droplets fewer than 5 microns in diameter as aerosols.
Aerosols are smaller and they contain much less virus than droplets do. But because they are lighter, they can linger in the air for hours, especially in the absence of fresh air. So in a crowded indoor space, enough aerosolized virus can be release by even asymptomatic patient over time to infect many people.
What are precautions against aerosol containing corona virus?
Two things stand out as most important measures to protect yourself from virus infested aerosols
1. Wearing masks
Cloth face masks will greatly reduce risk, as long as most people wear them. Masks may not necessary indoors at home when you’re with your own family or with roommates you know to be careful. But it is a good idea to wear them in other indoor spaces.
2. Indoor Ventilation
Open windows and doors whenever possible. You can also upgrade the filters in your home air-conditioning systems, or adjust the settings to use more outdoor air rather than recirculated air. Public buildings, businesses and schools may want to invest in air purifiers and ultraviolet lights that can kill the virus.
Of course the importance of social distancing and hand washing cannot be over emphasised. Doing activities alone outdoors is relatively safe. A walk on the beach or the park especially on a breezy day, is likely to be safer than a pub or an indoor restaurant with recycled air.