COVID-19 risk of spread: absorb viruses via air?

COVID-19 risk of spread: absorb viruses via air?

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What is the risk of coronavirus exposure via the air?

To avoid the spread of COVID-19, it is important to understand the role of airborne transmission of infectious droplets - especially if they come from an infected person over 1.5 meters away. A research group has now asked health authorities to continue investigating the airborne transmission of COVID-19, as this could pose a greater risk than previously thought.

The latest joint study by the Queensland University of Technology and the Chinese Academy of Sciences found that the role of airborne virus droplets in COVID-19 has been largely underestimated. The results of the study were published in the English-language journal "Environment International".

Would the transmission of viable virus droplets through the air be underestimated?

The national health authorities responsible for controlling the pandemic are being hampered by their failure to recognize the research results of airborne virus droplets carried out after the 2003 SARS outbreak, the researchers report.

Spread of COVID-19 through the air?

Now is the ideal time to explore how viruses can spread through the airflow, as there are many similarities between the corona virus that caused SARS and the COVID-19 corona virus. Therefore, according to the researcher, it is very likely that COVID-19 can spread by air.

Several cases of contactless transmission have already occurred

Analysis of the initial pattern of COVID-19 spread in China shows several cases of contactless transmission, especially in areas outside of Wuhan, the research group explains. Numerous cruise ships, which infected thousands of people on board, experienced many of the infections after passengers had to isolate themselves in their cabins and despite improved hand hygiene. Therefore, the ventilation system could have spread infectious air between the cabins, the researchers conclude.

Airborne transmission of corona viruses has already been confirmed

“We know that the predecessor of Covid-19, SARS.CoV-1, spread through the air when it broke out in 2003. Several studies have retrospectively explained this transmission path at the Prince of Wales Hospital in Hong Kong and in healthcare facilities in Toronto, Canada, ”said Professor Lidia Morawska of the Queensland University of Technology in a press release.

Increased indoor danger?

A review by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2009 found evidence that indoor viral diseases are spread over long distances by aerosol or airborne transmission, and infections can accumulate in a short period of time.

Smallest virus droplets spread through the air

The liquid component of virus droplets began to evaporate immediately after exhaling and some of the droplets became so small that they could move in air currents and did not fall to the ground, as is the case with larger droplets.

Viruses that spread through the air are difficult to detect

"Such small droplets can carry their virus content tens of meters away from the infected person," explains Morawska. It is difficult to detect viruses that spread through the air directly, since this requires knowledge of the air flow and the collection of samples over a long period of time.

How can we protect ourselves?

The research group calls for health authorities to take precautions to reduce airborne transmission. These precautions include, for example, increased ventilation of interior spaces and the use of natural ventilation. Air circulation should be avoided, as should staying in the direct air flow of another person. Care should also be taken to ensure that as few people as possible are in the same area. Adequate ventilation should be implemented in nursing homes, hospitals, shops, offices, schools, restaurants and on cruise ships.

More research is needed

More research into air transmission needs to be done. The likelihood of COVID-19 spreading through airborne droplets must be taken seriously and appropriate protective measures should be taken. Until now, air transmission as a method of spread has largely been ignored, the researchers criticize. (as)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the requirements of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.


  • Lidia Morawska, Junji Cao: Airborne transmission of SARS-CoV-2: The world should face the reality, in Environment International (published volume 139, June 2020), Environment International
  • Indoor precautions essential to stem airborne COVID-19, Queensland University of Technology (Published April 16, 2020), Queensland University of Technology

Video: Aerosols: Key to control the coronavirus spread? COVID-19 Special (November 2022).