COVID-19 Airborne Transmission Possible Says WHO

In the World Health Organization’s (WHO) scientific report published yesterday, July 9, 2020, the agency recognized the possibility of airborne transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in certain conditions.

Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO COVID-19 Technical Lead, said in a statement yesterday, “We have been talking about the possibility of airborne transmission and aerosol transmission as one of the modes of transmission of COVID-19. We’re also looking at the possible role of airborne transmission in other settings particularly closed settings where you have poor ventilation. And we’ve engaged with a large number of groups, epidemiologists and clinicians, IPC specialists, engineers, mathematical modelers to try to consolidate the growing knowledge around transmission.”

In addition, WHO Chief Scientist Dr. Soumya Swaminathan explained that the agency updates guidelines based on the latest data which come from hundreds of publications that they are reviewing.

COVID-19 Outbreaks in Indoor Locations

WHO said that there have been COVID-19 outbreaks reported in closed settings such as restaurants, nightclubs, places of worship or places of work where people may be shouting, talking, or singing.

Relative to these outbreaks, the agency said that airborne transmission is possible in indoor settings, particularly in crowded indoor locations where there is inadequate ventilation and there are infected persons spending long periods of time with others.

Airborne Transmission of COVID-19 and Medical Procedures

Furthermore, in WHO said airborne transmission is also possible during some medical procedures that produce very small droplets called aerosolized droplet nuclei or aerosols.

According to the agency, these droplets are able to stay suspended in the air for longer periods of time.

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Thus, when people with COVID-19 undergo such medical procedures in health facilities, aerosols can contain the virus which can be inhaled by people not wearing appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

With that, the agency reminds all health workers performing these procedures to take specific airborne protection measures and use appropriate PPEs.

Further Studies Needed

However, despite recognizing the possibility, the World Health Organization said that further studies are urgently needed to investigate such instances and evaluate their significance to COVID-19 transmission.

COVID-19 Modes of Transmission

According to WHO, these are the possible modes of transmission for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19:

  • Contact
  • Droplet
  • Airborne
  • Fomite
  • Fecal-oral
  • Bloodborne
  • Mother-to-child
  • Animal-to-human transmission.

But according to the agency, that the primary transmission of COVID-19 is through the following:

  • Direct, indirect or close contact with infected people through their saliva and respiratory secretions; or
  • Through their respiratory droplets that are expelled when they cough, sneeze, talk or sing.

SOURCE: WHO Facebook Page, WHO Guidelines, WHO New Scientific Report, WHO COVID-19 Modes of Transmission

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