As research surrounding Coronavirus transmission continues to evolve, we are dedicated to educating our readers with new information, updates to outdated information, and insights into how this information can be of use to you. A new piece of information from the World Health Organization covers the transmission of Coronavirus – whether through the air, via direct and indirect contact, or a combination of the two. As facility management professionals, building operators, and business owners, it is important to navigate through the clutter and get the facts you need to protect your occupants, tenants, and employees.
As of March 29, The World Health Organization Says “No” to Airborne Transmission
According to a recent analysis of over 70,000 cases of COVID-19 in China, airborne transmission was not reported as a mode of transportation for the virus. It was found, however, that the virus is spread primarily through respiratory droplets and contact routes1. Respiratory droplets are droplet particles between 5 and 10 microns that are released as someone coughs, sneezes, yells, etc. The virus can be transmitted via these particles from direct contact with a contaminated individual, or indirect contact through contaminated surfaces.
Although airborne transmission of COVID-19 has not been proven, the WHO suggests that it is still possible. Specifically, their findings suggest that airborne transmission may be possible given certain circumstances – like in procedures or support treatments that involve the use of aerosols. It is also suggested that other, unpublished evidence remains to be reviewed on the topic.
The WHO continues to recommend precautions for droplet and contact precautions in the care of contaminated individuals and airborne precautions for circumstances and settings in which aerosol–generating procedures and support treatment are performed. If you’d like to read more about airborne precautions for your building, read our article on reducing the spread of airborne infectious diseases.2
A few days prior (March 26), an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association reported particles carrying COVID-19 can travel up to 27 feet.
Lydia Bourouiba is a researcher from MIT who studies the dynamics of exhalations at The Fluid Dynamics of Disease Transmission Laboratory. Just three days prior to the update made by the WHO, Bourouiba told USA Today that “There’s an urgency in revising the guidelines currently being given by the WHO and the CDC on the needs of protective equipment, particularly for the frontline health care workers.”
Bourouiba’s research suggests that coughs and sneezes produce gaseous clouds that can travel up to 27 feet, and the currently–used surgical and N95 masks are not tested for these types of exhalations. Bourouiba claims that these gaseous clouds can contain particles of all sizes introduced when a person coughs, sneezes, or exhales – and exhaling into your elbow only partially mitigates the cloud.
“Although no studies have directly evaluated the biophysics of droplets and gas cloud formation for patients infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus, several properties of the exhaled gas cloud and respiratory transmission may apply to this pathogen,” the article states.3
Conclusion: It is important to source information from multiple reputable sources.
This pandemic is a complex issue with various implications on human health and society. It is imperative that you continue to stay up to date on the latest research available and take all precautions into consideration. New research is being conducted every day, and it remains unclear of any resolution of the disease in the near future. Continue to wash your hands, practice social-distancing, wear masks when applicable, and further, if you are in need of detailed guidance on the control of this disease, make sure to speak with governing bodies like the CDC and WHO, regardless of conflicting information.
Disclaimer: Our team does not claim to be medical professionals, but simply experts in building operations and management as it applies to creating a safe indoor environment for all. Our updates are based on the latest research available to the public, and we are constantly looking to improve the relevancy the content we share.