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Global: Action call on big airborne COVID risks

Transmission of COVID-19 through an airborne ‘aerosol’ is “stronger than that for any other pathway”, greatly increasing the preventive efforts required, a US expert has warned. Jose-Luis Jimenez, a professor of chemistry and a fellow of the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado-Boulder, said the evidence on airborne transmission demonstrates why more stringent efforts are needed to control the virus, going beyond current official guidelines.

Writing in Time magazine, he notes that that these guidelines prioritise prevention by reducing contact with contaminated surfaces (fomite transmission) or through exposures to small bits of saliva or respiratory fluid that infected individuals expel when they cough, sneeze, or talk (droplet transmission). The two-pronged transmission model is promoted by the World Health Organisation (WHO), which still plays down the risk of a third pathway, airborne transmission. This “is a significant mistake and on 6 July I, along with 239 scientists, appealed to the WHO to reevaluate their stance”, Jimenez notes. “WHO updated its position in response, but the agency’s language continues to express scepticism of the importance of this pathway.”

He concludes: “It is critical to have a clear physical description of the ways in which COVID-19 is transmitted, so that individuals and institutions are able to visualise it and will understand how to protect themselves. Contrary to public health messaging, I, together with many other scientists, believe that a substantial share of COVID-19 cases are the result of transmission through aerosols.” He added: “The evidence in favour of aerosols is stronger than that for any other pathway, and officials need to be more aggressive in expressing this reality if we want to get the pandemic under control.” A new paper published online in the journal Environment International has concluded that for airborne transmission the “plausibility score (weight of combined evidence) is 8 out of 9, adding “precautionary control strategies should consider aerosol transmission.” Source: Risks 962

Read more: Time Magazine.
Lidia Morawska, Donald K Milton. It is Time to Address Airborne Transmission of COVID-19, Clinical Infectious Diseases, ciaa939, 6 July 2020.
Song Tang, et al. Aerosol transmission of SARS-CoV-2? Evidence, prevention and control, Environment International, volume 144, November 2020. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envint.2020.106039
WHO knew? WHO’s complacency over work virus risks a world class disasterHazards special report, July 2020.

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