WHO acknowledges emerging evidence of airborne spread of COVID-19

WHO acknowledges emerging evidence of airborne spread of COVID-19

The World Health Organization (WHO) has acknowledged there is emerging evidence that the COVID-19 can be spread by tiny particles suspended in the air called aerosol.

Airborne transmission could not be ruled out in crowded, closed or poorly ventilated settings, said an official in a recent conference at the WHO headquarters.

If the evidence is confirmed, it may affect guidelines for indoor spaces.
But in an open letter to the Geneva-based agency, published in the Clinical Infectious Diseases journal, 239 scientists in 32 countries outlined evidence that say floating virus particles can infect people who breathe them in.They had accused the WHO of underestimating the possibility of airborne transmission.

The WHO has so far said that the virus is transmitted through droplets when people cough or sneeze.

Health Minister Dechen Wangmo said that the precautionary measures that the government has been implementing such as hand washing, physical distancing and wearing mask are ery much in line with WHO recommendations.

“It is now more important to wear mask every time,” said Lyonpo.

Lyonpo also mentioned that the actual change in the airborne diseases guideline would be when patients are treated and incubated in the Intensive Care Units (ICU) where they need to take extra precautionary measures.

Lyonpo said otherwise whatever measures the authorities are implementing are very much in line with the recommendations. So there has been no specific general population recommendation.

According to the WHO representative to Bhutan, Dr Rui Paulo de Jesus, so far the mode of transmission of COVID-19 is mainly from person to person through droplet as stated by WHO; other mode is through fomites.

“However other modes of transmission is being investigated,” said Dr Rui.

Dr Rui mentioned that the experts had urged the WHO to change the statement with regard to mode of transmission through aerosol.

However, Dr Rui said that to add that aerosol is another mode of transmission there is need for more evidence.

“At the moment we can say there is possibility of transmission of COVID-19 through aerosol in crowded places and in close and fully ventilated settings,” said Dr Rui.

Dr Rui said that preventive measures are physical distancing, washing hands frequently particularly before touching your face, eyes and ear, cough etiquette and avoiding visiting crowded places. “We urge people to use face mask. These are effective preventive measures.”

According to Dr Rui, aerosol will linger in the air much longer. “It depends on conditions. It can be several minutes to several hours.”

“We shouldn’t be complacent.”

Coughs and sneezes can spread droplets of saliva and mucus, which is called droplet transmission while airborne transmission is caused by tiny particles, possibly produced by talking which are suspended in the air for longer and travel farther.

However, WHO officials have cautioned the evidence is preliminary and requires further assessment.

Dechen Dolkar from Thimphu