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Infectious Diseases

Updated 30 March 2020

Coronavirus | Concerns about if, and how it spreads in the air? Here are the facts

Can the new coronavirus spread through the air? This is what the latest research says.

A recent update on the new coronavirus has resurfaced in the last few days and appears to be causing some concern.

The story, referencing a recent study in the US about how the new coronavirus can survive on surfaces and in the air, is being shared widely on social media channels.

It also explains that, according to a World Health Organization (WHO) official, the WHO is considering "airborne precautions" for medical staff, on the back of this study and others being conducted globally

Health24 recently covered the results of the study where the experiments were conducted in controlled environments.

These are the key points to know about the study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine:

  • Researchers looked at the stability of the new coronavirus in aerosols, plastic, stainless steel, copper, and cardboard and estimated the decay rates.
  • Based on the research, the new virus remained viable in the air for three hours
  • The virus was detectable on plastic up to 72 hours
  • On stainless steel for 48 hours
  • On cardboard for 24 hours
  • On copper for 4 hours

The researchers said their results indicate that transmission of the virus in the air and from surfaces IS PLAUSIBLE, since the virus can remain viable and infectious in aerosols for hours and on surfaces up to days.

This what Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, head of the WHO’s emerging diseases and zoonosis unit said:

According to Van Kerkhove, via the New York Post: "When you do an aerosol-generating procedure, like in a medical care facility, you have the possibility to what we call aerosolise these particles, which means they can stay in the air a little bit longer.

"And in that situation, in healthcare facilities, it's very important that healthcare workers take additional precautions when they're working on patients and doing those procedures. But for the everyday person, it's the talking and the sneezing and the coughing, which is why we want the respiratory etiquette."

READ | How long can coronavirus survive in the air and on surfaces; and why do you need to wash your hands?

READ | How mild, undocumented infections could lead to an even bigger coronavirus spread

READ | Hit by coronavirus panic? Look for data not drama

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