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Virus not airborne, DOH official insists

A Department of Health official on Thursday said COVID-19 is not airborne and one can get infected by droplets transmitted by a person infected with the highly-contagious virus. 

“Our evidence up to now and what we’re getting from our experts showed that COVID-19 is still transmitted only through droplets and closed contact,” Usec Maria Rosario Vergeire said in an interview over radio DZMM yesterday. 

“The airborne they’re saying is in a hospital setting,” stressed Vergeire when sought for her comment on an article quoting a World Health Organization official who reminded medical staff to consider “airborne precautions” after a new study published in preprint database medRxiv indicated the novel coronavirus or severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2, which causes COVID-19, could survive in the air as aerosols or fine particles for up to three hours.

Study authors from the Princeton University, University of California, Los Angeles and health officials from the United States have also found that the virus is detectable on copper for up to four hours, up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to two to three days on plastic and stainless steel.

However, the scientists said the results are preliminary, as they have not been evaluated. This means the findings “should not be used to guide clinical practice.”

Based on the records of the DOH and WHO, Vergiere said a person can catch the coronavirus disease through droplets from the nose or mouth when a COVID-19 infected person coughs or sneezes. 

She said it also appears that majority of the people affected by the new coronavirus are the elders who have  have pre-existing medical conditions like diabetes; hypertension and other cardiovascular diseases; asthma and other respiratory illnesses. 

WHO said these droplets land on objects and surfaces and stay there for hours. 

People then contract the new coronavirus by touching these objects or surfaces, then touching their mouth, eyes, or nose or breathing in these secretions.

Because of this, WHO underscored the importance of social distancing , keeping a distance of one meter or three feet from a sick person to avoid the spread of the virus. 

Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe, WHO representative to the Philippines,  reminded the public that COVID-19 is “largely transmitted through droplets” and there is no evidence it is airborne.

“This is why WHO continues to advocate the practicing of hand hygiene, cough etiquette and social distancing.”

He said those who are most at risk, especially the elderly, should avoid going to crowded places.

President Rodrigo Duterte had placed the country under a state of calamity and the entire Luzon under a community quarantine. 

He ordered the people to stay at home and strictly observe social distancing to avert transmission of the virus and flaten the epidemic curve. 

Topics: Department of Health , COVID-19 , Maria Rosario Vergeire , coronavirus , social distancing
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