COVID-19 transmission is airborne: 10 key reasons why, what does it mean

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Updated: April 20, 2021 11:50 AM

Till now, the SARS-CoV-2 has been believed to be large-droplet-borne and therefore, all the measures and guidelines were introduced accordingly.

Over the past one year, many observations have been made and after this, ten key reasons have been concluded as to why the virus is airborne.

It has been more than one year since the Coronavirus pandemic wreaked havoc on the global population and the route of its transmission is still in discussion. Well, one may have hoped for the transmission to be controlled in one year, but some studies show the transmission is airborne. In the past, many studies including the one funded by the WHO found the evidence for this inconclusive. However, now a team of researchers/ experts has looked at research available in The Lancet and has concluded that there is a consistent and strong evidence showing that the primary transmission route of the novel Coronavirus is airborne.

What does it mean?

Till now, the SARS-CoV-2 has been believed to be large-droplet-borne and therefore, all the measures and guidelines were introduced accordingly. Now, the virus being airborne is a game-changer and public health measures will now be taken in account on this basis. Failure in doing so will lead to a large number of public unprotected. Dr Trisha Greenhalgh of the University of Oxford, who is also a lead author of the paper published said in a report (The IE) that now the emphasis on deep cleaning and frequent hand washing will be less. Proper ventilation will now be needed.

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Now the need to monitor carbon dioxide and keep windows open for proper ventilation is the need of the hour. Apart from this, air filtration becomes necessary and people are advised to wear better-fitting masks when they are indoors. Greenhalgh added that attention should be given to 3Cs (as called by Japanese) and this includes avoiding any close contact, crowded places as well as closed spaces (poor ventilation).

Why COVID-19 is now being called airborne?

Over the past one year, many observations have been made and after this, ten key reasons have been concluded as to why the virus is airborne.

  • There have been super-spreading events where Coronavirus was transmitted and the patterns  have been consistent with airborne spread as droplets or fomites will not be able to cause a spread at this level. 
  • While long-range transmissions have been recorded in adjacent rooms in quarantine hotels, it has never been documented in each other’s presence.
  • There are asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic cases that account for at least a third (up to 59 per cent) of all transmission globally and can be looked at as a key way the virus spreaded. 
  • The spread is more indoors when compared to outdoors, which usually happens in airborne routes of transmission.
  • Despite the use of PPE kits and precautions to curb the spread (as per droplet transmission), new infections have been documented in healthcare organisations. 
  • Viable virus strains have been detected in the air and some lab experiments show that the virus can stay in air for up to 3 hours. 
  • Even in air filters and building ducts in hospitals where Covid-19 patients are present, SARS-CoV-2 has been identified. 
  • There are some studies that involve infected caged animals who were “connected to separately caged uninfected animals via an air duct” showed that the virus transmitted from there as well. 
  • The authors of the report noted that no such study has surfaced which refutes the hypothesis of Covid-19 being airborne. 
  • Even for other dominant routes like fomite or respiratory droplets, the evidence is limited.

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