Coronavirus can spread up to four metres from patients, putting lives of health staff at risk: Study

On testing the floor and other surfaces like computers, handrails, doorknobs, etc they found high levels of contamination of the virus.

tech2 News Staff April 13, 2020 10:39:55 IST
Coronavirus can spread up to four metres from patients, putting lives of health staff at risk: Study

It's been four months since the first case of coronavirus was detected in China. As time passes, researchers are making new discoveries about the spread, symptoms, and prevention of the novel coronavirus.

A new study, published in the Emerging Infectious Disease Journal, the official journal of the USA's Centres for Disease Control and Prevention states that the virus can travel up to four metres from patients. The study also looked at the risk health care workers are facing by coming in constant contact with infected patients as well as virus-laden floors, computer equipment, handrails, etc in hospitals.

Coronavirus can spread up to four metres from patients putting lives of health staff at risk Study

The coronavirus can travel up to four meters by air.

The World Health Organisation has on previous occasions said that maintaining two metres distance (social distancing) between people will decrease the risk of the transmission of the disease. However, an MIT study done by professor Lydia Bourouiba said that two metres might not work and these guidelines are outdated.

She said the virus can travel much further than previously anticipated –around eight metres – and can linger in the air for hours. However, she and her study were openly ridiculed by Dr Anthony Fauci, the leading US government infectious disease expert during a press meeting at the White House. He said that he "was disturbed by that report because that’s misleading." He also said that a “very, very robust, vigorous, achoo sneeze” would be needed for the droplets to travel such a distance, reported the Internation Business Times.

Also read: India's pollution board issues guidelines to handle COVID-19 biomedical waste

A new study, conducted by the Academy of Military Medical Sciences, Beijing, China might be the extra proof we need to increase the distance in social distancing. The team of researchers said, "(SARS-CoV-2) transmitted by aerosols remains controversial, and the exposure risk for close contacts has not been systematically evaluated." They tested the surface and air samples from the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and the general ward in a COVID-19 ward at the Huoshenshan Hospital in Wuhan. The ICU had 15 patients that were severely infected and 24 patients, in the general ward, has milder symptoms.

On testing the floor and frequently used surfaces like the computer mice, trash cans, sickbed handrails, doorknobs, patient masks, personal protective equipment, and air outlets, they found high levels of contamination of the virus. The floor was heavily contaminated and they hypothesise that it is because "of gravity and airflow causing most virus droplets to float to the ground." The soles of shoes worn by the workers in the hospital were also positive and it could be reasoned that they might act as carriers of the virus. The floor of the pharmacy, in the hospital, also tested positive for the virus.

Also read: How does a hospital prepare for coronavirus; an expert explains

The Conclusion

The study found that the masks used by patients have "exhaled droplets and oral secretions" and the researchers recommend that these masks are disinfected before they are discarded as the virus can spread if anyone comes in contact with it.

Coronavirus can spread up to four metres from patients putting lives of health staff at risk Study

Coughing and sneezing can lead to respiratory droplets transmitting to other people via the air. Image credit: Wikipedia

They also recommended that the staff working in the hospital "perform hand hygiene practices" like washing their hands or using a sanitizer after they come in contact with a patient. This will ensure that they don't touch things in the hospital and increase the chance of infecting other people.

Another suggestion from the study was the air in the ICU was more contaminated with the virus that the general wards in the hospital and hence extra protection should be undertaken by the hospital authorities to ensure that the contamination was kept to the minimum.

Last but not the least, after tested the air around a patient's bet, the study points to the fact that the aerosol distribution of SARS-CoV-2 can transmit over a distance of four meters.

Also read: What are the symptoms of coronavirus? Is there a cure? and other COVID-19 questions answered

Updated Date:

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