"Those (coronavirus droplets) are going to stay in the air floating around for at least two hours."
Chinese scientists have recently said that a study they conducted from March to April found that the novel COVID-19 virus can spread through air. The experts came up with the conclusion after capturing “tiny droplets”, with diameters tinier than one-ten-thousand of an inch, which contained coronavirus genetic markets from the air of two hospitals in Wuhan, China where the dreaded virus originated.
In a study published in Nature, Chinese scientists gathered droplet samples from the Renmin Hospital in Wuhan University and at a temporary medical facility used to isolate and treat patients with mild COVID-19 symptoms in the city. Aside from the two hospitals, the experts also collected samples in the air from public places including a residential building, a supermarket, and two department stores in Wuhan.
The scientist found out that there were “very” few coronavirus detected in the air of the two medical facilities, which were well ventilated. However, an increasing concentration of the virus of about “one square yard in size” were seen in small, unventilated toilet areas.
On the other hand, they found out that the public places, including the condominium and supermarket, contained no viruses. They, however, detected some levels of viruses in crowded areas such as outside of one of the hospitals and in the department stores.
Scientists also found coronavirus airborne in places where medical practitioners and other staffs took off their protective gears, which suggest that viruses may also stay on the garments and can be bounced back into the air after removing them.
In an interview by the New York Times with Virginia Tech professor of civil and environmental engineering Dr. Linsey Marr said that the findings can emphasize the importance of avoiding small, confined spaces with less ventilation.
Dr. Marr said such findings suggest the potential for airborne transmissions, although there is no strong evidence yet that the tiny droplets found in two hospitals and other public areas were infectious.
“Those (coronavirus droplets) are going to stay in the air floating around for at least two hours. It strongly suggests that there is potential for airborne transmission,” Dr. Marr remarked.
She also added that based on her calculation, it would take about 15 minutes for one person to breathe in one virus particle. However, she did not mention whether the said person is wearing mask or not.
“It was interesting to see there were measurable amounts… I think it adds good evidence to avoid crowding,” added Dr. Marr.
The World Health Organization, once again, downplayed such possibilities, explaining that COVID-19 is mostly acquired or transmitted through larger droplets, which do not stay airborne for a long period of time, or even through touching of contaminated things or surfaces.
The findings by Chinese scientists in Wuhan also echo the study found by other experts in the University of Nebraska Medical Center where they also found coronavirus RNA in the air and in room surfaces. The study, however, is in the process of peer review before they can officially put it up for publication.
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