WHO is considering “airborne precautions” for medical staff after a new study showed the coronavirus can survive in the air in some settings.
Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, Head of WHO’s Emerging Diseases and Zoonosis Unit, emphasized Monday the importance of health care workers taking additional steps to protect themselves when performing some procedures on infected patients.
“When you do an aerosol-generating procedure like in a medical care facility, you have the possibility of what we call aerosolized particles, which means they can stay in the air a little bit longer,” Van Kerkhove said.
World health officials say respiratory disease spreads through human-to-human contact, droplets carried through sneezing and coughing as well as germs left on inanimate objects. The coronavirus can go airborne, staying suspended in the air depending on factors such as heat and humidity, they said. Health officials recommend health care workers wear N95 masks — which are able to filter out about 95% of all liquid or airborne particles.
Kerkhove said health officials are aware of several studies in a number of countries looking at the different environmental conditions that COVID-19 can persist. Scientists are specifically looking at how humidity, temperature, and ultraviolet lighting affects the disease as well as how long it lives on different surfaces, including steel, she said.
Separately, WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Monday that there’s been a rapid escalation of COVID-19 cases over the past week, adding, “we have not seen an urgent enough escalation in testing, isolation and contact tracing, which is the backbone of the response.”
“We have a simple message for all countries: test, test, test. Test every suspected case, if they test positive, isolate them and find out who they have been in contact with two days before they developed symptoms and test those people, too,” Tedros said.