Understanding 'aerosol transmission' could be key to controlling coronavirus

Julian Tang

Imagine you think there are mice in your house. You can see the evidence – mouse droppings; gnawed or damaged skirting boards; holes left in food packaging. You call a local pest control team who confirm that you have mice and advise you on what is needed to remove them. Neither of you have actually had to see a mouse to reach this conclusion.

The same kind of thinking can be applied to the transmission of coronavirus. We don’t need to see the virus to understand how it spreads. Recent studies from China show that patients infected with Covid-19 in clinical settings exhale large amounts of virus, which remain present in the air and can be sampled and detected.

Because of this, scientists can reasonably infer that the virus contaminates its surrounding environment. People nearby may inhale it, and as the virus floats through the air, spreading further in poorly ventilated environments, those who are further away could also become infected. Importantly, scientists haven’t yet demonstrated that someone walking through a cloud of exhaled virus would develop Covid-19 from that particular exposure, and research in this area is ongoing. But there is growing evidence that the virus which causes Covid can remain in the air, and therefore pose a risk to people in that airspace.

The article's full-text is available here.

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