📑 Is SARS-CoV-2 airborne? Questions abound—but here’s what we know

Bookmarked Is SARS-CoV-2 airborne? Questions abound—but here’s what we know

A look at the data on aerosol transmission.

Beth Mole unpacks the data on coronavirus and aerosol transmission. With the current push to recognise the distribution beyond just droplets. There are a few problems with this, the complexity of scenarios, the debate about data and the implications of such a decision.

If we fully embrace the SARS-CoV-2 aerosol hypothesis, we may need additional measures, such as N95 respirators for everyone. This would be extremely difficult if not impossible to implement given the clear lack of supply and the fact that such respirators must be properly fit-tested and that people must be trained to wear them properly.

As Dan Diekema, head of infectious diseases at the University of Iowa, put it in a recent blog post, “N95s in the community? Don’t make me laugh, it might generate aerosols.”

Zeynep Tufekci argues that we need to be clear what we mean by ‘airborne’ and ‘aerosol’.

To date, there is also no evidence of truly long-range transmission of COVID-19, or any pattern of spread like that of measles. Screaming “it’s airborne!” can give the wrong impression to an already weary and panicked public, and that’s one reason that some public-health specialists have been understandably wary of the term, sometimes even if they agreed aerosol transmission was possible. Cowling told me that it’s better to call these “short-range aerosols,” as that communicates the nature of the threat more accurately: Most of these particles are concentrated around the infected person, but, under the right circumstances, they can accumulate and get around.

In the end, once we pay attention to airflow, many other risks look different.

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