AirBorne Disease, It’s a human instinct to spit a little while talking and this was being considered as a means of COVID-19 spread. Though the transfer of coronavirus from one person to another was subjected to a great debate, it was assumed that droplets causing respiratory diseases were so large that they would drop on the ground and this assumption had inspired public health guidelines like keeping a distance of six feet between two persons and cleaning surfaces regularly.

Some scientists, however, have become concerned about the spread of airborne disease novel coronavirus through a more dangerous route- an airborne pathogen. Under this assumption, every sneeze, spoken word, cough or even the breath that we exhale would bring out potential droplets causing COVID-19 in continuum sizes. The worry also is that whether the tiniest particles called aerosols can harbour SARS-CoV-2 virus and make it float across a room sparking new infections.

In July, 239 scientists called for recognition of the airborne disease transmission of COVID-19 based on a series of lab tests and case reports and published a commentary for the same in Clinical Infectious Diseases. Though the spread of airborne coronavirus outside hospital settings is subject to debate, proponents say that public risks are too high to wait for further research. They have proposed addition to public health guidelines like improving ventilation as some of the scientists are working on models to predict the hazards of airborne infections. Scientists are using methods that have been used over the decades to track pollutants in indoor areas and their risk for infectious diseases. This model can track infectious aerosols in a number of spaces and results can provide a valuable comparison of relative risk.

However, other scientists and traditionalists are ruling out the airborne disease transmission and the most classic argument is that “aerosol transmission appears to be the exception rather than the rule”. In response to the commentary published in Clinical Infectious Diseases, the WHO acknowledged that air routes of coronavirus transmission cannot be ruled out for some indoor incidents but those cases could also be explained in light of transmission via heavy droplets or contaminated surfaces.

What does all this discussion mean to you?

In plainer terms, coronavirus jumps from one person to another when they are in close proximity. Whether this happens via droplets, aerosols or a combination of both, the health guidelines you must follow, remains pretty much the same. You must avoid face-to-face conversations even with a mask on and keep away from crowded spaces. More tactics are needed for stuffy rooms as masks can contain droplets but not aerosols. Also, as a responsible citizen, you must enter the calls for better ventilation.

On July 29, the WHO released a set of general recommendations on ventilation in public spaces and health facilities which also involves schools and businesses developed by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers. The debate over aerosol transmission has created better communications between the scientists and the general public and this might help in developing better COVID-19 preventive measures.

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