Does coronavirus travel through air? Experts divided

WION Web Team New Delhi, Delhi, India Apr 06, 2020, 11.47 PM(IST)

File photo. Photograph:( AFP )

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ICMR's argument is simple. It says had the coronavirus been airborne then the family of an infected person would have tested positive too.

The coronavirus is an unknown enemy. Every day there are new things that we are learning about the Wuhan virus. Previously, we were told that masks aren't mandatory for all. 

That's because the virus spreads through droplets from sneezing, coughing or by coming in contact with an infected surface. Some virologists now say that the Wuhan virus spreads through air and that wearing a mask is non-negotiable.

Is the Wuhan virus airborne? Does it travel through the air? The experts aren't sure. The WHO (ICMR) disagrees. It says there no evidence that COVID-19 is an airborne disease.

ICMR's argument is simple. It says had the coronavirus been airborne then the family of an infected person would have tested positive too. India's health ministry backs this argument.

There are scientists on the other side of the debate. Their argument is based on the size of particles that come out with the Wuhan virus. Experts say the particles vary in size. There are hefty droplets, or much lighter- aerosols which are smaller than five micrometres and linger in air for much longer.

A study was carried out in Wuhan according to which droplet samples were collected from hospitals and departmental stores at the height of the coronavirus outbreak. Researchers found the RNA or ribonucleic acid from the COVID-19, meaning, they found traces of the virus. 

The conclusion being the virus is carried in tiny droplets in the air but does it infect others? 

The experts found no evidence. In the US, the National Academy of Science has said that the coronavirus can spread through air. A study published in the New England journal of medicine backs this argument but critics point out that the study was conducted in a controlled environment.

India has already urged everyone to wear masks even if it means wearing home-made masks. Dr. Anothony Fauci, United States' top infectious disease expert has said that the US could soon change its mask guidelines.

Chinese experts have previously pointed out that one of its vital weapons against the virus was masks.