New Evidence of Airborne Spread of Coronavirus From CSIR Labs  

The risk from airborne spread of the virus can be mitigated if the necessary precautions are followed.

2 min read
The risk from airborne spread of the virus can be mitigated if the necessary precautions are followed.

A new study by the CSIR-Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), Hyderabad, and the CSIR-Institute of Microbial Technology (IMTech), Chandigarh, has looked at the extent of an airborne spread of the novel coronavirus and found that the risk can be mitigated if the necessary precautions are followed.

The research, based on data collected from hospitals in the two cities, found that the risk of exposure in closed rooms through airborne transmission was higher if more infected people were present, but that in normal circumstances, the virus was not found more than four feet from the infected person, The Indian Express reported.

Masks, physical distancing, and avoiding interaction with an infected person are recommended as precautionary measures.

The study is available on the pre-print server MedRxiv but is yet to be peer-reviewed. According to ANI, some crucial findings are:

  • The virus was found in air samples from COVID-19 wards at hospitals but not from non-COVID-19 wards. This suggests that the demarcation of hospital zones has been an effective strategy.
  • The study showed the chances of picking up SARS-CoV-2 in the air is directly related to the number of COVID-19 positive cases in the room, their symptomatic status and the duration of exposure.
  • When patients spent longer hours in a room, coronavirus exists in the air for more than 2 hours even farther than 2 metres from where they are seated. For asymptomatic cases, they showed that the virus doesn't spread farther from them when they are seated in a room without perceived airflow.
  • The study also found that in “neutral” conditions, with no particular airflow direction, the virus did not travel much in the air.
  • “Virus could not be picked up at a distance of even 4 feet when COVID positive individuals spent a short time (20 minutes) in the room. This indicates that short duration of exposure to a COVID positive individual may not put one at a significantly increased risk. The samples collected at 8 feet and 12 feet subsequently were also negative,” the study said.

In its advisory issued, the CSIR-Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology has said that using public transport (train, bus, metro) for a short duration (30 minutes) with the required precautions would not greatly increase the risk of infection. If the travel duration is longer, it could be broken down into separate journeys.

When using public toilets, it is advisable to keep the mask on to avoid risk from aerosols released during flushing, and this must be followed with proper hand hygiene.

CCMB Director Rakesh Mishra has said, "If we ensure that we follow hygiene protocols such as regular handwashing, using masks effectively and preventing symptomatic people from public mixing, we can start getting back to normalcy more comfortably,” reported PTI.

In general, closed, crowded and poorly ventilated spaces must be avoided. To understand airborne transmission and how you can stay safe, watch our explainer video here.

(With inputs from The Indian Express and ANI)

(The article was first published in FIT and has been republished with permission.)

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