The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Thursday airborne transmission of the novel coronavirus can occur during medical procedures that generate aerosols.
The agency said some outbreak reports related to indoor crowded spaces have suggested the possibility of aerosol transmission, combined with droplet transmission, such as during choir practice, in restaurants or in fitness classes.
Based on its review of the current evidence, the WHO said the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 spreads between people through direct or indirect contact with contaminated surfaces or close contact with infected people who spread the virus through saliva, respiratory secretions or droplets released when an infected person coughs, sneezes, speaks or sings.
The report follows an open letter from scientists who specialize in the spread of disease in the air – so-called aerobiologists – that urged the global body to update its guidance on how the respiratory disease spreads to include aerosol transmission.
“This is a move in the right direction, albeit a small one. It is becoming clear that the pandemic is driven by super-spreading events, and that the best explanation for many of those events is aerosol transmission,” said Jose Jimenez, a chemist at the University of Colorado who signed the letter, which was published on Monday in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.
How frequently the coronavirus spreads by the airborne or aerosol route – as opposed to by larger droplets in coughs and sneezes – is not clear.
Only a very small number of diseases are believed to be spread via aerosols, or tiny floating particles. These include measles and tuberculosis – two highly contagious diseases that require extreme precautions to prevent exposure.
WHO guidance acknowledges that airborne transmission of the novel coronavirus can occur during specific medical procedures that generate aerosols, such as when performing intubation.
In these circumstances, they advise medical workers performing such procedures to wear heavy-duty N95 respiratory masks and other protective equipment in an adequately ventilated room.
Source text: [bit.ly/326Z44N]
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