The World Health Organization (WHO) has acknowledged the possibility of airborne transmission of Covid-19.
This was after a group of scientists urged the global body to update its guidance on how the respiratory disease is spread between people as evidence show that smaller exhaled particles can linger in the air and infect people who breathe them in.
“…The possibility of airborne transmission in public settings cannot be ruled out,” technical lead on the Covid-19 pandemic at the WHO, Maria Van Kerkhove, said. “We have been talking about the possibility of airborne transmission and aerosol transmission as one of the modes of transmission of Covid-19.”
The WHO has previously said the virus that causes the Covid-19 respiratory disease spreads primarily through small droplets expelled from the nose and mouth of an infected person that quickly sink to the ground.
But, in an open letter to the Organization, published in the Clinical Infectious Diseases journal, 239 scientists in 32 countries outlined evidence that they say shows floating virus particles can infect people who breathe them in.
Speaking at a briefing in Geneva, Benedetta Allegranzi, the WHO’s technical lead for infection prevention and control, said there was evidence emerging of airborne transmission of the Covid-19, but that it was not definitive.
“…The possibility of airborne transmission in public settings – especially in very specific conditions, crowded, closed, poorly ventilated settings that have been described, cannot be ruled out,” she said. “However, the evidence needs to be gathered and interpreted, and we continue to support this.”
Van Kerkhove said the WHO would publish a scientific brief summarizing the state of knowledge on modes of transmission of the virus in the coming days.
“A comprehensive package of interventions is required to be able to stop transmission,” she said. “This includes not only physical distancing, it includes the use of masks where appropriate in certain settings, specifically where you can’t do physical distancing and especially for healthcare workers.”
Any change in the WHO’s assessment of the risk of transmission could affect its current advice on keeping 1-metre (3.3 feet) of physical distancing.
Governments, which rely on the agency for guidance policy, may also have to adjust public health measures aimed at curbing the spread of the virus.
By Jamila Akweley Okertchiri