In the initial stages of the coronavirus outbreak, (peruse press coverages and media statements issued in the period 8th of January to 19th January 2020) numerous health officials and government authorities in an attempt to downplay the situation and panic said that human-to human transmissions were not possible. (they said that it was only via animal to human transmission) By the late part third week of January 2020, it was confirmed that human to human transmissions were occurring and today we have a mess, more than 1112 people dead, almost 45,000 confirmed infected and more than 7,400 in severe critical conditions. This only based on so called ‘official figures’ from the China health authorities whereas there has been constant speculations that the numbers are more greater than this. We also have more than 500 cases now spanning 29 countries globally with tens of thousands of suspected cases. It is surprising that these health officials and government figures in various countries are immune to laws pertaining to fake news or misinformation.
However in all fairness, everyone has to understand that the Covid-19 coronavirus is a novel or new virus that only made its maiden debut in December 2019. We do not know anything about it are only slowly learning about it. Many assumptions were based on its near “cousins” the SARS and MERS coronaviruses but these many might not hold true as the Covid-19 virus is displaying its own uniqueness.
It is only by actual scientific research and clinical observations that many of these new data about the new coronavirus can be obtained. The best group of people so far that have a better understanding of the new coronavirus would be the Chinese doctors and medical researchers on the ground level dealing with the clinical settings and not some Western doctor who last did some research in 2003 (some even are not trained in the respective fields but are yet giving media interviews!) and currently sitting in some plush aircon office thousands of miles away!
At the moment , the CDC and WHO says that the Covid-19 coronavirus can only be spread by respiratory droplets that are produced by coughing or sneezing.
So the big question to all, how are infected individuals that are asymptomatic ie not displaying any symptoms infecting others. There is already ample evidence showing asymptomatic individuals are causing the spread of the disease, but how?
Dr Zeng Qun, the deputy head of the Shanghai Civil Affairs Bureau, told a press briefing last Saturday that the coronavirus can be spread via direct transmission, which involves contact with the infected person. However, the China Daily newspaper reported Dr Zeng also suggested the new member of the large coronavirus family, which includes SARS is capable of aerosol transmission.
“Aerosol transmission is a type of airborne transmission and refers to the mixing of the virus with droplets in the air to form aerosols, which causes infection after inhalation, according to medical experts.”
As such, these types of diseases can linger in the air for long periods of time. Only a few diseases spread this way, including tuberculosis and measles.
Dr Zeng advised members of the public to therefore be aware of this potential risk of passing on the coronavirus when at family gatherings.
Dr Shen Yinzhong, the medical director of the Shanghai Public Health Clinical Center, said Covid-19 could “in theory” be spread through the air. However, Dr Shen said more research is needed to confirm this, according to The New York Times which cited Shanghai’s The Paper.
Both of these were refuted on the next day when researcher Dr Feng Luzhao of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention told a press conference there is no evidence that the coronavirus can form aerosols. Feng said, according to China Daily, that the most likely route of transmission appears to be direct, where a person breathes in the air of an infected person who has coughed or sneezed, which is different to airborne transmission. In addition, he said it is unlikely the virus can spread through fruit and vegetables.(quoting him directly!)
Mr Feng Luzhao stated that the droplets carrying the coronavirus travel only about 1m to 2m and do not stay suspended in the air. This is why you are unlikely to catch the virus through transient (or short-term) contact such as on public transport. (note that his very same agency is responsible for making sure that all public areas , public transport are sprayed and cleaned with disinfectants daily.)
Dr Ian Mackay, a virologist at the Australian Infectious Diseases Research Centre and, told newsGP service on the website of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners: “At the moment this is just a pronouncement without supporting evidence. We have to be careful because we have seen numerous false starts and wild claims around this coronavirus, which have all lacked any evidence, quality expert review, or slow and careful consideration before publication or any expertise associated with their original analysis.”
Singaporean infectious diseases expert Dr Leong Hoe Nam said the virus is likely to die when the droplets dry up.
Experts say if the virus could really survive even after the droplets carrying it have dried up, it would have spread through the air as dust particles and potentially infected 10 times more people, which is not the case.
Dr Tawee Chotpitayasunondh, an advisor to Thailand’s Department of Disease Control, says the coronavirus has yet to infect people via airborne transmission. It is transmitted by droplets from coughing and sneezing, which although they can travel short distances through the air, rely on other factors, including, location, weather and proximity of the people infected.
To date, there has been no study done yet to ascertain as to whether or not the Covid-19 coronavirus can be transmitted airborne or thru aerosol formats.
But at the same time we should completely rule out that airborne transmissions are possible as already we are finding out that the coronavirus has long “activity life’ outside of a host on surfaces if there are conducive conditions such as low temperatures and high humidity.
It best to take precautions but not be overly paranoid. Stay away or keep a distance from any suspected or known infected individuals.
Also besides what has been said that the coronavirus can only be spread via respiratory droplets, there has been new research emerging that fecal transmissions is another possibility as well as blood transmissions but these have yet to be ascertained.
All we can do to get an decent answer is wait till a proper scientific study has been conducted and the results released. Till then it’s a daily gamble.