New evidence has emerged that could explain how the respiratory disease, COVID-19, is transmitted so mysteriously and easily. Could coronavirus have been airborne this whole time? The WHO (The World Health Organization) is looking into the emerging evidence thoroughly in hopes to find an answer.
New evidence emerges
The new evidence came on Monday, July 6, published in the Clinical Infectious Diseases Journal. In 32 countries, 239 scientists outlined evidence that suggests that the floating virus particles can infect people who breathe them in. Because those smaller exhaled particles can linger in the air, the scientists in the group had been urging WHO to update its guidance.
The WHO had previously stated that the COVID-19 respiratory disease spreads primarily through small droplets expelled from the nose and mouth of an infected person. But new evidence suggests it can spread in a different way.
The WHO responds
“We have been talking about the possibility of airborne transmission and aerosol transmission as one of the modes of transmission of COVID-19,” said Maria Van Kerkhove, technical lead on the WHO’s COVID-19 pandemic team.
“…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,” said Benedetta Allegranzi, the WHO’s technical lead for infection prevention and control.
“However, the evidence needs to be gathered and interpreted, and we continue to support this,” Allegranzi added.
If evidence proves the virus to be airborne…
Any change in the WHO’s assessment of risk of transmission could affect its current advice on keeping 6 feet apart in an act of social distancing, as the virus can be transmitted up to 3.3 feet. Governments, which rely on the agency for guidance policy, may also have to adjust public health measures aimed at curbing the spread of the virus. This new evidence only fuels the Trump Administration’s desire to end the relationship between the U.S. and the WHO.
Van Kerkhove promised that the WHO would be publishing a scientific brief summarizing the state of knowledge on modes of transmission of the virus in the coming days.
“A comprehensive package of interventions is required to be able to stop transmission,” she said. “This includes not only physical distancing, it includes the use of masks where appropriate in certain settings, specifically where you can’t do physical distancing and especially for healthcare workers.”