Can The Coronavirus Disease or Covid-19 Spread Through Air?

About Coronavirus

Coronavirus or COVID-19 has wreaked havoc across the world since it first came to light in the Wuhan province of China in late December.  As on April 11, 2020, this latest strain of the coronavirus family has infected more than 1,685,000 across the world with the United States topping the chart with over 500,000+ infected and over 18000+ fatalities due to the infection. Coronavirus is not new to clinicians.  It has been prevalent since the 1960s and has been responsible for majority of coughs and colds.[1]

Until this new strain of Coronavirus or COVID-19 was found, the only complications known were the SARS or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome or the MERS or Middle East Respiratory Syndrome.  Both these infections had significantly high mortality rate when compared to COVID-19 with the only difference being the transmission rate.  While SARS and MERS had very slow transmission rate meaning that they were contained without much damage to the community, COVID-19 spreads extremely fast.  The aggressiveness with which the COVID-19 spreads is what that has made this virus unstoppable across the world, especially Europe and North America.[1]

Researchers are working overtime to try and study the behavior of this coronavirus strain to come up with a vaccine or definitive treatment but have been unsuccessful.  Experts believe the best way to deal with Coronavirus or COVID-19 is to maintain social distancing and self-isolation.  The incubation period for Coronavirus or COVID-19 is around 10-14 days after which the patient starts experiencing symptoms.  People who are above 60 years of age or have premorbid conditions like uncontrolled hypertension or diabetes, or are immune compromised are most vulnerable for Coronavirus or COVID-19.[1]

The rapid spread of Coronavirus or COVID-19 makes everyone wonder whether this infection spreads through air.[1]  This is what has been discussed in the article below.

Can The Coronavirus Disease or Covid-19 Spread Through Air?

Can The Coronavirus Disease or Covid-19 Spread Through Air?

There are many theories and presumptions doing the rounds in the medical fraternity about how Coronavirus or COVID-19 is transmitted.  Many experts believe that this virus spreads only through droplets that come out when an infected person coughs or sneezes.  These droplets may either enter the body of the uninfected individual directly or after he or she touches an object infected by the virus.[2]

However, some scientists believe that the Coronavirus or COVID 19 can spread through air exhaled by an infected patient by way of miniscule particles called aerosols.  However, this only occurs in hospital settings during intubation of a patient and there are no cases as of now of somebody getting infected with Coronavirus or COVID-19 through air, according to the WHO.  Experts in the study of respiratory illness and aerosols feel that to find out whether the coronavirus infection or covid-19 is airborne or not and collecting evidence of it may take quite a few years and not to mention plenty of lives.  These experts are of the opinion that the coronavirus may spread through air.  It is just that there is just not enough evidence to prove it. They state that aerosols can stay in the air for longer period of time due to their extremely light weight when compared to droplets which are heavy and can travel only a few meters before dropping to the ground or on a surface when an infected person soughs or sneezes.[2]

An epidemiologist from Hong Kong states that the Coronavirus or COVID-19 virus can come out in varying sizes right from heavy droplets to small aerosols and this can result in the virus accumulating in certain enclosed spaces where they may thrive and start infecting people through air.  It should be noted here that this is all hypothesis and nothing has been proven as of yet.  Another virologist from the University of Leicester states that aerosols can be transmitted with talking and breathing and thus is far more risky than transmission by droplets.  This is because when coughing or sneezing, people can cover their face with a mask or turn their face away.  This is not the case when talking or breathing.  This has been proven in the cases of influenza where around 40% patients exhaled aerosols containing the influenza virus.[2]

In fact, a virologist from China collected samples of aerosols from many hospitals in Wuhan, China at the peak of Coronavirus or COVID-19 as well as from a couple of departmental stores and found out many samples that had the Coronavirus or COVID-19 virus in the aerosols.  However, the study did not make any mention whether the virus was infectious enough to affect the cells.  However, as a precautionary measure he suggested people to stay away from crowded places and also explained the importance of wearing masks just to ensure that even if the virus travels through aerosols people can be protected against it.  That being said another study investigating presence of aerosols in isolation wards treating Coronavirus or COVID-19 patients were completely negative.[2]

There were some positive results from an air outlet fan surface but the researchers conducting the study stated that the outlet fan was so close to patients that it is not surprising that the positive results may be due to the patient coughing or sneezing and the droplets settling on the surface.  The WHO however states that there is no concrete evidence that Coronavirus or COVID-19 can spread through air and thus is not airborne disease.[2]

The WHO has conducted their own analysis in China of 75,000 Coronavirus or COVID-19 patients and there was no evidence of any airborne transmission in any of the cases.  Researchers in the United States state that the virus can stay in an aerosol for about 4 hours but the risks of transmission of Coronavirus or COVID-19 through air is very little and hence it is not an airborne disease.[2]

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