Can coronavirus be spread through the air?
Staff process samples of novel coronavirus at the center for disease control and prevention in Nanyang, Henan province, on Feb 4. [Photo/Xinhua]
The virus that causes COVID-19 is primarily transmitted through "respiratory droplets and close contacts", and it doesn't seem to stay long in the air, according to a recent publication released by the World Health Organization.
According to the publication on the WHO's official website, respiratory infections can be transmitted through droplets of different sizes.
Droplet transmission occurs when you have close contact (within 1 meter) with a person who has respiratory symptoms such as coughing or sneezing, which may spread these potentially infectious droplets, typically 5-10 microns in size, to your body. Transmission may also occur by touching surfaces or objects in the immediate environment around the infected person.
Airborne transmission is different from droplet transmission, as it refers to the presence of microbes within droplet nuclei, which are generally considered to be smaller particles of less than 5 microns in diameter, and which can remain in the air for long periods of time and be transmitted to others over distances greater than 1 meter.
In the context of COVID-19, airborne transmission may be possible in specific circumstances in which procedures or support treatments that generate aerosols are performed, such as intubation within a patient's windpipe, disconnecting a patient from a ventilator, and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).
According to the publication, no cases of transmission by air were reported in an analysis of 75,465 patients with the coronavirus in China.
Based on the current evidence, the World Health Organization continues to recommend droplet and contact precautions for those people caring for COVID-19 patients. And it's recommended that people take measures to prevent possible transmission by air when performing medical operations that produce aerosols.
Editor: John Li