WHO issues new guidelines on airborne transmission of coronavirus, calls for more research

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The World Health Organization in an updated scientific brief on Thursday (July 9), acknowledged the reports of the airborne spread of the novel coronavirus but also emphasised that more evidence in terms of research was required in that direction.

On Thursday, the world body released new guidelines acknowledging reports of outbreak at indoor crowded spaces suggesting the possibility of aerosol transmission, such as in restaurants or in fitness classes but the WHO stopped short of confirming that the virus spreads through the air.

The brief maintained that “the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 spreads through contact with contaminated surfaces or close contact with infected people who spread the virus through saliva, respiratory secretions or droplets released when an infected person coughs, sneezes, speaks or sings.”

The agency also asserted that the virus may be spread by people who do not have symptoms: “Infected people can transmit the virus both when they have symptoms and when they don’t have symptoms,” the agency said.

Previously, WHO had said asymptomatic transmission, while it may occur, was probably “very rare.”

Experts are of the opinion that though both the revisions made in the breif were long overdue, but they were not as extensive as they had hoped.

The report comes in the wake of an open letter written by over 200 scientists urging the global body to update its guidelines on how the respiratory disease spreads to include aerosol transmission.

“This is a move in the right direction, albeit a small one. It is becoming clear that the pandemic is driven by super-spreading events, and that the best explanation for many of those events is aerosol transmission,” said Jose Jimenez, a chemist at the University of Colorado who signed the letter, which was published on Monday in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases was quoted as saying by Reuters..

The new WHO guidelines suggest that people should avoid crowds and ensure good ventilation in buildings, in addition to social distancing, and encourage masks when physical distancing is not possible.

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