COVID-19 Travels in the Air Study Says

Mar 19, 2020

New evidence suggests COVID-19 is transmissible through the air, a finding that contradicts the World Health Organization’s position on the matter. 

Virginia Tech virologist Linsey Marr says the new information suggests preventing the spread of the Coronavirus takes more than just handwashing.


 “It is definitely traveling through the air," Marr says. "It’s been found on an air outlet fan of a patient room in Singapore. It's been detected in air and Wuhan in the hospital and also in a crowded area near the entrance of a hospital in a department store.”

 Marr says a recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine showed the virus remains infectious for a couple of hours while airborne, and for longer on some surfaces, losing strength as time passes. She’s concerned health care workers may not be getting the right training and protection in light of these findings.

There are still small corners of the country where there are no known cases of COVID-19. And while there are documented infections in many parts of Virginia, so far, there are none confirmed in the New River Valley. But Marr thinks, that’s about to change.

 “I think there may be a false sense of security in the New River Valley because there haven't been any positive tests that we know about, but I think that's really just due to lack of testing. Um, I'd be surprised if there really weren't any infections in this community.” 

 Marr studies how viruses survive in the air. She says COVID-19 can transmit disease while airborne, just as it can when it remains on many surfaces.  And although the risk of transmission lessens as time passes, “The virus seems to transmit very easily between people. And it's really inevitable that people have come into contact with the virus somewhere and have brought it to the New River Valley, and that it's spreading here.”

 

***Editor's Note: Radio IQ is a service of Virginia Tech