Colored scanning electron microscope image of a cell (blue) that is heavily infected with SARS-CoV-2 virus particles (red) and isolated from a patient sample. The image was taken at the NIAID Integrated Research Facility (IRF) in Fort Detrick, Maryland. Image Credit: NIAID

Scientists working with leading research institutions across the state indicated in a letter published Monday in Science magazine that researchers from different disciplines must come together to develop clear public health guidelines on the spread of SARS-CoV-2 deliver in the air.

The researchers write in the open letter that the scientific community must clarify the terminology related to aerosols and droplets and use a more modern size threshold than the existing one, which is based on work from the 1930s. Authors include experts from the University of California at San Diego, the University of Maryland, Virginia Tech, and others.

Public health officials should make a clear distinction between droplets emitted by coughing or sneezing – which inspired the socially distant mantra of a six-foot separation between people – and aerosols, which can transmit the virus over much greater distances. Viruses in aerosols that are smaller than 100 microns can stay in the air for long periods of time in a confined space and accumulate in poorly ventilated air, leading to transmission.

“The balance of attention needs to be shifted to airborne protection,” said the group, led by Kimberly Prather, director of the National Science Foundation-funded Center on Aerosol Effects on Environmental Chemistry at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego.

“Viruses in aerosols, like smoke, can float in the air for seconds to hours and be inhaled,” the letter says. “They are highly concentrated around an infected person, so the easiest way to infect people is in their immediate vicinity. However, aerosols containing infectious viruses can also do more than travel [two meters] and accumulate in poorly ventilated indoor air, leading to very common events. “

In addition to wearing masks, social distancing and hygiene, the researchers urge public health officials to articulate the importance of engaging in outdoor activities, improving indoor air through ventilation and filtration, and protecting high-risk workers .

“The aim of this letter is to make it clear that SARS-Cov-2 virus is airborne and people can be infected through inhalation,” said Prather, a distinguished professor who has a joint appointment between the Scripps Institution of UC of the University of San Diego owns oceanography and its chemistry and biochemistry department. “It is important to acknowledge this path so that efforts can focus on cleaning the air and providing guidance on avoiding risky indoor settings.”

Co-author Linsey Marr, Charles P. Lunsford professor of civil and environmental engineering at Virginia Tech and an expert on airborne viruses, added, “It’s important that people are in public buildings and in confined spaces wear masks all the time. not just when we cannot maintain social distance. This is not just an academic question, but a point that will help reduce transmission if public health officials offer clear and compelling guidance on it. ”

Questions and Answers: Should We Be Worried About Coronavirus In The Air? Provided by the University of California – San Diego

Quote: Letter from leading researchers calls for terminology update, postponement of COVID-19 guidelines (2020, October 5), accessed October 5, 2020 from -shift-covid- .html

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