Shanghai authorities on Sat (8 Feb) announced that the novel coronavirus originating from Wuhan can be airborne.
State-owned newspaper China Daily reported deputy head of the Shanghai Civil Affairs Bureau Zeng Qun as saying on Sat that aerosol transmission has been confirmed as one of the ways the novel coronavirus can be transmitted.
“Aerosol transmission refers to the mixing of the virus with droplets in the air to form aerosols, which causes infection after inhalation, according to medical experts,” Mr Zeng told a daily media briefing by the municipal government regarding efforts to contain the spread of the virus.
Prior to this, the novel coronavirus infection is known to be passed from one individual to another via direct transmission and contact transmission.
Direct transmission refers to infection caused by inhalation of air close to a patient who sneezes and coughs, while contact transmission occurs when a person touches an object tainted with droplets containing the virus and subsequently touches the membranes of their mouth, nose and eyes.
South China Morning Post reported that the National Health Commission and the World Health Organisation have yet to confirm aerosol transmission as one of the ways the novel coronavirus could be passed on.
The WHO said that a person may transmit the virus to another through droplets and contaminated surfaces. However, further investigation and analysis of the epidemiological data is needed to understand the full extent of the transmission, the organisation added.
An infectious diseases specialist who wishes to remain anonymous, however, told TOC that it is unlikely for the virus to be airborne, as millions of people would have been infected by now if such was the case.
The specialist added that the novel coronavirus would not have mutated since it has been so successful in infecting others.