Tiny airborne particles may carry the new coronavirus


A study in Wuhan, China, detected genetic material of the new coronavirus in airborne suspensions, or aerosols, in hospitals and public spaces. The finding reinforces the importance of thorough sterilization of infection hotspots, good ventilation, and avoidance of crowding.
A preliminary study of data from two hospitals in Wuhan, China, suggests that tiny airborne particles may carry and spread SARS-CoV-2.
To date, scientists have established three ways in which severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2).
According to a recent study in China, aerosols may offer a fourth transmission route for the virus.
In their study, the researchers detected genetic material, RNA, of the virus in aerosols sampled from two hospitals and various public places in the city of Wuhan, where the outbreak started.
Aerosol traps
The scientists used air filtration devices called aerosol traps to collect a total of 35 samples from 31 locations between February 17 and March 2, 2020.
The number of samples was relatively low because access to hospitals became tightly restricted at the peak of the outbreak.
In addition, the researchers emphasize that their study did not establish whether the virus-laden aerosols were capable of infecting people.
In confined spaces, however, aerosols are known to transmit other pathogens, including those that cause tuberculosis, measles, and chickenpox.
The concentration of virus-containing aerosols was generally very low, or even undetectable, in patient wards, which the authors attribute to effective isolation procedures and good ventilation.
However, there were high concentrations in unventilated portable toilets at the field hospital. The scientists also placed aerosol traps in public spaces, including a supermarket and residential building.
This suggests that people who had the infection but experienced no symptoms were nonetheless breathing out virus-laden aerosols.
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