Is Covid 19 airborne?

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Is Covid 19 airborne?

Dr Soumya Swaminathan expounds

Thursday, 9th July 2020

A team of more than 230 scientists from 32 nations suggested that Covid-19 is airborne and recommended WHO to give an updated guideline. This has created a fear among people all over the world.


Dr Soumya Swaminathan, WHO's chief scientist spoke to Consulting Editor of India Today TV, Rajdeep Sardesai, in an interview to eradicate all the doubts regarding this new Covid-19-related issue.


When she was asked about what WHO says on whether Covid-19 is airborne or not, the pathogen is capable to survive and transmit in the air in a very narrow environment.   


The droplets that get out of the mouth when someone speaks, sings, shouts or breathes are of various sizes. The heavier droplets fall on the ground within the range of 2 meters. And that’s the reason why maintaining social distance has been of great importance in order to avoid transmission from an infected person to a healthy one.


“But there are also smaller droplets that are less than 5 microns in size. They are called aerosols and since they are small in size, they can stay a bit longer in the air as they take a little longer to settle on the ground. These droplets can be moved around by gusts of winds etc. Therefore, these particles could be inhaled by other people who are in the vicinity. This form of transmission of Covid-19 can be called as airborne transmission”, she said.


However, this kind of transmission is different than the viruses like measles, “which are truly airborne in the sense that they spread primarily in the air”.

“I think this distinction between the two types of airborne transmissions should be kept in mind”, said Dr Soumya Swaminathan.


The tiny droplets that can remain suspended in the air for almost 15 minutes once out of someone’s mouth, is capable of infecting a healthy person.

“If you happen to enter that space and breathe that air, you may get infected because the tiny droplets containing the virus are still in the air”, she said.


“We don't say it doesn't happen. But it does not mean that since Covid-19 is airborne, it means it is everywhere and nothing can be done. If it was truly airborne like measles, in the sense that it was everywhere, all of us would have been infected by now”, she added when asked if the virus could be transmitted through air.  


Most of the cases can be prevented by maintaining social distancing.

“We have been talking about the possibility of airborne transmission and aerosol transmission as one of the modes of transmission of Covid-19”, Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s technical lead on the Covid-19 pandemic reported.


“...The possibility of airborne transmission in public settings - especially in very specific conditions, crowded, closed, poorly ventilated settings that have been described, cannot be ruled out”, he said. This respiratory disease primarily spreads through droplets that come out of the nose and mouth.


Dr Swaminathan further said, “Achieving herd immunity is going to take a very long time. Secondly, it is going to come at a cost in terms of loss of lives, illness in the community and prolonged lockdowns”.



Source: India Today 



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