(Reuters) – The World Health Organization released new guidelines for the transmission of the new coronavirus on Thursday that recognize reports of airborne transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19, but has not confirmed that the virus is spreading in the air.
In its latest guidelines on transmission, the WHO has recognized that some epidemic reports related to overcrowded indoor spaces suggest the possibility of aerosol transmission, such as during choir practice, in restaurants or in courtyards. fitness.
But the WHO said more research was “urgently needed to investigate such cases and assess their importance for the transmission of COVID-19”.
Based on its review of the current evidence, WHO has stated that the new coronavirus that causes the spread of COVID-19 between people through direct or indirect contact with contaminated surfaces or close contact with infected people who spread the virus from saliva, respiratory secretions or droplets released when an infected person coughs, sneezes, talks or sings.
The report follows an open letter from scientists specializing in the spread of airborne diseases – the so-called aerobiologists – who urged the world body to update its guidelines on how respiratory disease spreads. include aerosol transmission.
“It is a step in the right direction, although modest. It is becoming clear that the pandemic is caused by large-scale events and that the best explanation for many of these events is aerosol transmission, “said Jose Jimenez, a chemist at the University of Colorado who signed the letter, which was published on Monday in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.
The frequency with which the coronavirus spreads by air or aerosol – as opposed to larger droplets in coughing and sneezing – is unclear.
In a press briefing Thursday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the United States National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that there was not yet much solid evidence on the aerial transmission of SARS-CoV- 2, but said, “I think it’s a reasonable assumption that this is happening. ”
Although incomplete, Fauci said the evidence so far is “the fundamental basis for which we are now so determined to get people – especially people without symptoms – to wear masks.” To see if we can mitigate this, “he said.
Only a very small number of diseases are thought to spread via aerosols or tiny floating particles. These include measles and tuberculosis – two highly contagious diseases that require extreme care to avoid exposure.
WHO guidelines recognize that airborne transmission of the new coronavirus can occur during specific medical procedures that generate aerosols, such as during intubation.
In these circumstances, they advise medical personnel performing such procedures to wear highly resistant N95 respirators and other protective equipment in a sufficiently ventilated room.
Any change in the WHO assessment of the risk of transmission could affect its current advice on maintaining a physical distance of 1 meter (3.3 feet). Governments, which also rely on the agency for advice, may also need to adjust public health measures to curb the spread of the virus.