After almost six months of the Coronavirus Pandemic (it started in China in Dec 2019) now the WHO has issued a statement saying that Coronavirus could be Airborne. Earlier, it was accepted that the virus is passed on through air droplets.
So, Airborne vs Air Droplets? What’s the key difference?
There has been enough research around it that has made 239 scientists from across the globe, to urgently write to the World Health Organisation, headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, to revise their guidelines and declare COVID-19 an airborne disease. The paper titled ‘It is Time to Address Airborne Transmission of Covid-19’ is likely to be published in a scientific journal next week.
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, technical lead on the COVID-19 pandemic at the WHO, told a news briefing.
Speaking at Tuesday’s briefing in Geneva, Benedetta Allegranzi, the WHO’s technical lead for infection prevention and control, said there was evidence emerging of airborne transmission of the coronavirus, but that it was not definitive.
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,”
So, what does it mean for a common person. And how does it add on to the already complicated world that we are living in. Does it mean we need to always wear our mask six feet away for fear of the COVID-19 virus landing on top of you?
Here in India, Dr Rajesh Parikh, the Co-author of The Coronavirus: What you need to know about the Global Pandemic had written in April shortly after the first few COVID-19 cases surfaced in India, in warning, that “differences between humans could cause the same infection’s differential spread” leading to COVID-19 being also borne on a breeze or the draft from an air-conditioner, spreading it over much “larger distances” ie beyond the mandated social distancing of six feet.”
In the book, the authors explain
‘Generally, COVID-19 patients produce large droplets, that fall to the ground and patients with infections like measles, produce small-droplet nuclei that can float in the air as an aerosol. Infections that spread via aerosol are called airborne infections, because they can stay suspended in the air for hours. Infections that spread via droplets, while not airborne, can be said to be borne by air. Some nuance can be lost in the oversimplified false dichotomy of airborne versus droplet transmission; they are not mutually exclusive’.
What is written in the book is is referred to a paper written by W F Wells an instructor in the department of epidemiology at Harvard.
“it is very simple, based on the research the paper says when a drop falls, it is evaporating, it becomes lighter. Just before it hits the ground it is so light that it can fly in the air,” says Dr Parikh.