A new study has found that the novel coronavirus can spread in the air for about 4 meters (13 feet), over twice the distance currently recommended people maintain for social distancing in public, AFP reported.
The study, conducted by scientists at Beijing’s Academy of Military Medical Sciences, tested air and surface samples from both an ICU and a coronavirus treatment ward at the Huoshenshan Hospital in Wuhan, the city in the Hubei province where the outbreak first began.
According to the study, the virus was concentrated heavily on the ward’s floors, which could be due to “gravity and air flow causing most virus droplets to float to the ground,” AFP reported.
“Furthermore, half of the samples from the soles of the ICU medical staff shoes tested positive,” the study said. “Therefore, the soles of medical staff shoes might function as carriers.”
Other areas with high concentration included frequently touched surfaces like computer mice, bed rails, door knobs and trash cans.
Studies on the airborne contagiousness of the coronavirus have been controversial, The Hill reported, referring to an earlier study conducted by MT which gave the virus a travel range of 23-37 feet. However, the leading US infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci slammed that research as “misleading.”
Claiming the MIT research lacked practicality, he said that in order for the droplets of the virus to ravel that far, it would take a “very, very robust, vigorous, achoo sneeze,” The Hill reported.
Earlier reports have proven the theoretical possibility of the aerosol transmission of the virus – referring to the droplets remaining airborne for several hours, which does not usually happen in the case of sneezes and coughs – but it is unclear how contagious these smaller quantities of the virus are. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) has even downplayed the risk of aerosol transmission.
Indeed, this is reflected by the medical staff at the hospital in Wuhan whom the study found to be completely free of infections, which indicates that proper measures can prevent infection effectively, AFP reported.