During this dreaded period of coronavirus pandemic, many questions have been asked with numerous not answered. In this article “is coronavirus airborne?”
some of the unanswered questions about coronavirus transmission are made known.
Is essential you understand the basics of transmission of airborne diseases as you read through.
Introduction to airborne diseases
Airborne diseases are those diseases that are transmitted via air from person to person or from animal to animal.
Air serves as the carrier of the disease-causing agent (pathogen). For instance, in malaria infection the vector of the pathogen (plasmodium) is female anopheles mosquitoes, while in the case of air borne, air serves as the vector (although vectors are living things).
In traditional medicine, a vector is an organism that does not cause disease itself but spreads infection by conveying pathogens from one host to another.
The pathogens transmitted may be any kind of viruses, fungi and bacteria.
These pathogens may spread in aerosols, dust or liquids. The aerosols might be generated from sources of infection such as the bodily secretions of an infected animal or person.
Infected aerosols may stay suspended in air currents long enough to travel for considerable distances; sneezes, for example, can easily project infectious droplets to a distance of over 14 feet.
Most airborne pathogens cause inflammation in the nose, throat, sinuses and the lungs as such causing respiratory difficulties.
Sinus congestion, coughing and sore throats are examples of inflammation of the upper respiratory airway due to these airborne agents.
Airborne diseases can also affect non-humans. For example, Newcastle disease is an avian disease that affects many types of domestic poultry worldwide, which is transmitted via airborne contamination.
Often, airborne pathogens cause inflammation in the nose, throat, sinuses, and the upper airway lungs. Upper airway inflammation causes coughing congestion, and sore throat.
Sinus congestion, coughing and sore throats are examples of inflammation of the upper respiratory air way due to these airborne agents.
Airborne infections usually occur by the respiratory route, with the agent present in aerosols (infectious particles <5 µm in diameter).
This includes dry particles, often the remainders of an evaporated wet particle called nuclei, and wet particles. This kind of infection usually requires independent ventilation during treatment. e.g., tuberculosis.
Airborne disease can spread when people with certain infections cough, sneeze, or talk, spewing nasal and throat secretions into the air. Some viruses or bacteria take flight and hang in the air or land on other people or surfaces. I know this question “Is coronavirus airborne?” still rings in your head, wait patiently we are heading there.
When you breathe in airborne pathogenic organisms, they take up residence inside you. You can also pick up germs when you touch a surface that harbours them, and then touch your own eyes, nose, or mouth like in the case of covid-19.
Because of the mode of transmission of airborne pathogens they are very difficult to contain.
Is high time this question of “is coronavirus airborne” is answered. From evidences gathered so far, covid-19 is not airborne.
Unlike tuberculosis and chickenpox, that circulate in the air, the transmission of COVID-19 occurs primarily through respiratory droplets which can spread the virus and can cause infection in others through contact.
Droplet transmission occurs when a person is in close contact (within 1 m) with someone who has respiratory symptoms (e.g., coughing or sneezing) and is therefore at risk of having his/her mucosae (mouth and nose) or conjunctiva (eyes) exposed to potentially infective respiratory droplets.
Transmission may also occur through fomites in the immediate environment around the infected person. Therefore, transmission of the COVID-19 virus can occur by direct contact with infected people and indirect contact with surfaces in the immediate environment or with objects used on the infected person (e.g., stethoscope or thermometer).
Airborne transmission is different from droplet transmission as it refers to the presence of microbes within droplet nuclei, which are generally considered to be particles <5μm in diameter, can remain in the air for long periods of time and be transmitted to others over distances greater than 1 m.
When someone coughs, sneezes, or talks, these droplets can infect another person if they get into their airways.
Droplets typically do not travel more than six feet (about two meters) and do not linger in the air.
A social distance of 6 feet intends to protect you against infecting another person or becoming infected.
Still, the CDC is now recommending the use of facemasks in public.
Although COVID-19 is not considered airborne, there may be some instances in which the virus can act like an airborne disease. These include certain clinical settings in which people are receiving intensive medical treatment.
In usual situations, SARS-CoV-2 is spread through respiratory droplets after a person coughs or sneezes, but these droplets are larger than what is considered airborne.
The things we know about coronavirus are changing spontaneously, because there is no total understanding of this virus, is essential and recommended airborne precautions are taken. Those uncertainties prompted to this write up of “Is coronavirus airborne?”
To prevent transmission, WHO recommends a comprehensive set of measures including:
- Identify suspect cases as quickly as possible, test, and isolate all cases (infected people) in appropriate facilities
- Quarantine all close contacts of infected people and test those who develop symptoms so that they can be isolated if they are infected and require care
- Use fabric masks in specific situations, for example, in public places where there is community transmission and where other prevention measures, such as physical distancing, are not possible
- Practice the use of contact and droplet precautions by health workers caring for suspected and confirmed COVID-19 patients, and use of airborne precautions when aerosol generating procedures are performed
- Continuous use of a medical mask by health workers and caregivers working in all clinical areas, during all routine activities throughout the entire shift
- At all times, practice frequent hand hygiene, physical distancing from others when possible, and respiratory etiquette; avoid crowded places, close-contact settings and confined and enclosed spaces with poor ventilation; wear fabric masks when in closed, overcrowded spaces to protect others; and ensure good environmental ventilation in all closed settings and appropriate environmental cleaning and disinfection.
I know this question of “Is coronavirus airborne?” is a thing of the past…
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