With new information emerging about the COVID-19 coronavirus each and every day, researchers are continuing to shed light on some of the unanswered questions about this unusual virus. One of the biggest questions yet to be answered is whether or not the virus can be transmitted in an airborne state. While the WHO initially suggested that the risk of airborne transmission was low, a growing body of evidence has emerged to suggest that the virus can survive in the air for extended periods of time. Now, a new study from the Chinese city of Wuhan has added to that body of evidence. Here’s what you need to know about this recent Chinese study and what it could mean for the effort to contain the new coronavirus.
What Did the Chinese Researchers Find?
A team from Wuhan University set up a series of aerosol traps in different spaces throughout the city with the goal of measuring the presence of the virus in the air. Encouragingly, the researchers did not find a high level of the virus in public places with proper ventilation, including supermarkets. Where they did find a significant presence of the virus, though, was in spaces that had low ventilation or where large numbers of people were gathered tightly together. Public restrooms, which are typically closed off and not ventilated well, made the list of spaces where the virus was found in the air at a significant level.
Another finding made by the researchers was that a room in a Wuhan hospital used by healthcare workers to remove protective equipment after working with patients had a very concentration of the virus in the air. Researchers speculate that this could indicate that viruses that had fallen on masks, gloves and other protective equipment were thrown loose into the air what that equipment was being removed.
What Do the New Findings Tell Us?
On some levels, these findings are fairly positive. While they do lend weight to the evidence that COVID-19 can spread through airborne transmission, the low incidence of the virus in supermarkets and other public places indicates that the risk may not be as high as it could be.
With that said, the finding of heavier viral loads in spaces with less ventilation is obviously concerning. Equally worrisome is the discovery that personal protective equipment could be shedding viruses into the air when it is taken off. If true, this raises concerns that people using PPE could potentially release viruses into the air in their homes or offices while removing it.
Overall, the Wuhan study provides another piece of evidence that points toward a reasonably strong possibility of airborne transmission under certain circumstances. This possibility makes it essential for everyone to be extremely mindful of personal protection as the virus continues to spread. For more information about other research into airborne coronavirus, check out our previous blog post on the subject.