Nepal | August 13, 2020

WHO acknowledges ‘evidence emerging’ of airborne spread of COVID-19

Reuters
Share Now:

GENEVA: The World Health Organization on Tuesday acknowledged “evidence emerging” of the airborne spread of the novel coronavirus, after a group of scientists urged the global body to update its guidance on how the respiratory disease passes between people.

“We have been talking about the possibility of airborne transmission and aerosol transmission as one of the modes of transmission of COVID19,” Maria Van Kerkhove, technical lead on the COVID19 pandemic at the WHO, told a news briefing.

The WHO has previously said the virus that causes the COVID19 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 Geneva-based agency, published on Monday 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.

Because those smaller exhaled particles can linger in the air, the scientists in the group had been urging WHO to update its guidance.

“We wanted them to acknowledge the evidence,” said Jose Jimenez, a chemist at the University of Colorado who signed the paper.

“This is definitely not an attack on the WHO. It’s a scientific debate, but we felt we needed to go public because they were refusing to hear the evidence after many conversations with them,” he said in a telephone interview.

Speaking at Tuesday’s 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 coronavirus, 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.”

Jimenez said historically, there has been a fierce opposition in the medical profession to the notion of aerosol transmission, and the bar for proof has been set very high. A key concern has been a fear of panic.

“If people hear airborne, healthcare workers will refuse to go to the hospital,” he said. Or people will buy up all the highly protective N95 respirator masks, “and there will be none left for developing countries.”

Jimenez said the WHO panel assessing the evidence on airborne transmission was not scientifically diverse, and lacked representation from experts in aerosol transmission.

Any change in the WHO’s assessment of 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.

Van Kerkhove said the WHO would publish a scientific brief summarising 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.”


Follow The Himalayan Times on Twitter and Facebook

Recommended Stories:

More from The Himalayan Times:

Coronavirus vaccine: Russia ahead on track, who is next?

KATHMANDU: Over 150 vaccines are being developed and tested around the world to stop the COVID-19 pandemic, of which 28 are in human clinical trials, according to the World Health Organization. Meanwhile, Russia has become the first country in the world to grant regulatory approval to a COVID-19 Read More...

Children in Beirut suffer from trauma after deadly blast

BEIRUT: When the huge explosion ripped through Beirut last week, it shattered the glass doors near where 3-year-old Abed Itani was playing with his Lego blocks. He suffered a head injury and cuts on his tiny arms and feet, and he was taken to the emergency room, where he sat amid other bleeding peop Read More...

Coronavirus found on Ecuador shrimps in China, state media says

BEIJING: A city in China's eastern Anhui province found the novel coronavirus on the packaging of shrimps from Ecuador, state media reported on Wednesday, in the latest instance of the virus being detected on imported products. The coronavirus was found on the outer packaging of frozen shrimps Read More...

Female patient admitted at KIST succumbs to coronavirus infection

Kathmandu, August 12 A female aged 78 of Teku who was admitted at Imadol-based KIST Hospital succumbed to the coronavirus infection today. She was admitted at the hospital on August 10 after she had diarrhoea, fever and cough. "The patient had visited the fever clinic in Patan Hospital and Read More...

Journalist Balaram Baniya passes away

HETAUDA: Journalist Balaram Baniya, who was currently the Assistant Editor at Kantipur Daily, has been found dead. He had gone missing since Monday. According to Spokesperson at District Police Office, Makwanpur, Baniya's body was discovered at the bank of Bagmati River near the Hydropower Projec Read More...

Coronavirus , vaccines, vaccines trails

Israel to examine Russia's COVID-19 vaccine, minister says

JERUSALEM: Israel will examine Russia's COVID-19 vaccine and enter negotiations to buy it if it is found to be a "serious product", Israel's health minister said. Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday his was the first country to grant regulatory approval to a COVID-19 vaccine, aft Read More...

Nepal's COVID-19 tally crosses 24,000 with 484 new cases detected today

KATHMANDU: The Ministry of Health and Population has recorded 484 new cases of coronavirus infection on Wednesday, taking the nationwide count to 24,432. The new infections were confirmed after testing 10,481 specimens through PCR method in the last 24 hours. Among the new cases, 138 have been Read More...

Nepal COVID-19 Update: 484 new cases, 64 recoveries, eight deaths reported Wednesday

KATHMANDU: Nepal’s Health Ministry, in its regular press briefing, shared the latest updates on coronavirus contagion from across the country, and government’s response to the health crisis. As of today, 473,179 tests through Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) method have been carried out wh Read More...