It looks like our worst nightmare is about to be true. A few ago 238 scientists from across the globe made a revelation that covid-19 can also be airborne. And today, WHO has acknowledged the fact that there is, indeed, “evidence emerging” of covid-19 being an airborne disease.
Here’s their official statement:
“We have been talking about the possibility of airborne transmission and aerosol transmission as one of the modes of transmission of COVID-19,” said Maria Van Kerkhove, technical lead on the COVID-19 pandemic at the WHO.
All this just means one thing: we have to be even more vigilant while stepping out. Because it is no longer just about touching a contaminated surface, because the virus might just be in the air we breathe.
To understand the precautions you need to take, we got Dr Manjusha Agarwal, consultant internal medicine at Global Hospital, Mumbai, to tell us how we can be safe from airborne transmission of covid-19.
But first, let’s understand how airborne diseases work
“Basically, airborne diseases are those that can be spread when people with certain infections cough, sneeze, or talk—spewing nasal and throat secretions into the air. Some viruses or bacteria stay in the air and/or land on other people, and when they get inhaled infections happen,” says Dr Agarwal.
“The most problematic thing in such diseases is that the virus can stay suspended in the air for hours. You will have to live with the fact that you need to wear a mask for at least a year. And not just any mask, but an N95 mask or surgical triple-layer mask. You need to cover your nose and mouth properly,” she says.
Here are 5 things you need to be more cautious when it come to covid-19 prevention:
1. Wearing a mask
Well, we have been wearing masks for months now but we need to make our peace with keeping our masks on. “We need to wear them whenever we are out so that we won’t inhale the virus. This is the most important thing that you can do to prevent any airborne disease,” Dr Agarwal says.
2. Social distancing is still key
“A comprehensive package of interventions is required to be able to stop transmission. This includes not only physical distancing, it includes the use of masks where appropriate in certain settings, specifically where you can’t do physical distancing and especially for healthcare workers,” said WHO’s Kerkhove in her official statement and Dr Agarwal agrees.
“Airborne viruses are less than 5 microns. Even if someone infected is breathing next to you and you inhale the same air, you can catch the virus,” she says.
3. No air conditioning
“Visiting places that have air-conditioning and no ventilation, and are publicly accessible is a complete no-no,” advises Dr Agarwal. So forget about going to the mall or your favourite restaurant anytime soon.
4. Stay in a well-ventilated room
According to Dr Agarwal staying in a well-ventilated room is a must so that fresh air can take up some room. This way the virus won’t keep circulating in the same space.
5. Face shields are a good option
“Especially if you are in a public dealing job or business then you must wear a face shield as that ensures you keep your hands off your face and is a good way to stay away from an airborne disease,” she says.
“While hand hygiene is a preventive measure for droplet infections, we need to add some precautions to our list because airborne diseases spread like wildfire,” she concludes.