Is the virus spreading through the air?
…could somebody sneeze, cough or simply breathe, and thirty minutes later infect you if you walk through the air they were in?
Staying aloft that long would require that the virus be present in aerosolized particles (as opposed to droplets) smaller than 5 micrometres (.0002 inches) in diameter. These tiny aerosolized particles can be passed simply by talking and breathing.
On March 27th, the World Health Organization stated that “there is not sufficient evidence to suggest that SARS-CoV-2 is airborne.”
experts on airborne infections assume the virus is airborne but that it will take time – too much time – to gather the evidence.
other studies, however, did not find airborne coronavirus, and one that did so didn’t find any infective particles. One study attempted but failed to find RNA from the virus in air collected just 10 centimeters in front of an infected person who was breathing, speaking and coughing,
Another question involves whether enough virus is present in the air to infect someone. Quickly passing through an airspace where someone was breathing or emitting virus is one thing – standing next to someone who’s been hacking away for 30 minutes is quite another.
The consensus right now appears to be that when the virus is being transmitted, it’s usually being transmitted by picking it up on our hands and transferring it to our mouth, nose and eyes.
When respiratory transmission occurs, it probably most commonly occurs via large droplets passed by coughing or sneezing which quickly fall to the ground after travelling usually a couple of feet – but possibly 25 feet.
STAT News reported that microbiologist and physician Stanley Perlman of the University of Iowa stated:
“I think the answer will be, aerosolization occurs rarely but not never. You have to distinguish between what’s possible and what’s actually happening.”
Some epidemiologists believe that we would see far higher rates of transmission, particularly among people who don’t know each other, than we are seeing thus far if the virus was strongly aerosolized.
Earlier this month, CDC reported that 10.5% of household members are getting the virus, but only 0.45% of close contacts.
I was shocked to learn that even when living together in a household only leads to a 10.5% rate of infection spread. This is as close as two people can get and transmission is still very low.
And if less than one half a percent of close contacts become infected, then it seems we should be able to go back to work and resume life cautiously at a distance.
At this time, it seems only tight crowding, like in large gatherings for celebrations (Mardi Gras, spring break), smaller intimate gatherings (funerals, weddings), or close sustained contacts are dangerous.
That figure suggests that aerosolization of the virus is not a major source of infection as well.
Aerosolized transmission may be occurring but it’s not now believed to be a major source of infection. It should be noted that the danger of picking up an aerosolized form of the infection is worse in poorly ventilated areas.
Intensive Care Unit Doctor in New York City Shares About His Experience with COVID-19
Check out a hopeful commentary on COVID-19 from an intensive care doctor on the front lines of the pandemic in New York City. His ICU unit is only caring for COVID-19 patients at this point.
The virus goes throughout the entire body. About 80% of people just don’t feel good. The disease typically lasts between 5-14 days. People who get short of breath usually do so about day 3-5.
The overarching theme is sustained contact with someone who has the disease or someone who is about to get it. It’s almost exclusively from your hands to your face (eyes, nose, mouth). In order for an aerosolized infection to occur, they believe you need to be in sustained contact in infected air for 15-30 minutes.
It is not a disease that is primarily being transmitted by someone with the disease touching something and then passing it on. It’s overwhelmingly driven by being in sustained contact with someone.
Washing your hands and wearing a mask (not touching your face) will stop, he believes 99% of the cases.
The health-care workers getting sick now have been in:
(a) sustained contact with COVID-19 patients; and
(b) were not protecting themselves properly earlier in the epidemic. He said now that they are protecting themselves properly, they are not getting sick.
In other words, so long as you keep your contacts short, you don’t have to be scared of your neighbor or the outside world.
Throughout the world, the vast amount of transmission is via family and close friends– not through casual contacts.