Study Suggests Airborne Transmission Of Coronavirus, As Air Samples Of Covid Wards Test Positive

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In a recent study by the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) and CSIR-Institute of Microbial Technology (IMTech), the novel coronavirus was found in air samples from hospital wards, which says that it could be transiently airborne.

The study bases itself on the outcomes of previous researches which suggest that the spread of the coronavirus can be airborne.

In the initial phase of the coronavirus spread, different researches reported that the transmission among physically distanced individuals in closed spaces with air conditioning was possible and the fact that the viral spread could not be effectively curbed in spite of strict lockdowns in various countries of the world, raised the possibility of its airborne transmission. 

The research was backed by the statement released by CDC which acknowledged the possibility of airborne transmission in certain scenarios.

The study analysed 64 air samples from COVID and non- COVID areas of various hospitals at Hyderabad and Mohali. The study was collated after the researchers used an air sampler that can collect virus particles and later it was tested using RT-PCR, CCMB said.

Findings from the Study-

  1. The study by CCMB has found that coronavirus was present in air samples, in Covid wards than the non-covid wards.
  2. The chances of picking up SARS-CoV-2 in air is directly related to the number of Covid-positive cases in the room, their symptomatic status and the duration of exposure, the statement added.
  3. For asymptomatic patients, the virus does not spread further from where they have been seated in a room without perceived air flow due to a fan or AC.
  4. Study also says that the virus does not travel much in the air in neutral environmental conditions (ambient temperature and humidity with no perceived air flow), especially if duration of exposure is short. Virus could not be picked up at a distance of even 4 feet when COVID positive individuals spent a short time (20 minutes) in the room. This indicates that a short duration of exposure to a COVID positive individual may not put one at a significantly increased risk.
  5. The researchers added, many densely populated nations where the recommended physical distancing norms may be difficult to implement in public/ office spaces, distancing as much as possible with usage of masks should be actively promoted. Whilst, any form of verbal communication from closed quarters without wearing masks should be prohibited.

As per the researchers, these findings have significant implications in the current situation, when many countries have relaxed the restrictions on public mobility and interactions, even when the number of COVID-19 cases are increasing steadily. 

The study reiterates the importance of Covid preventive guidelines to tackle the virus.

“All these findings do show that the coronavirus can stay in air for some time… If we ensure that we follow hygiene protocols such as regular hand washing, using masks effectively and preventing symptomatic people from public mixing, we can start getting back to normalcy more comfortably,”  said CCMB director Rakesh Mishra in a statement.

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