CIDRAP: Unmasked: Experts explain necessary respiratory protection for COVID-19
February 14, 2020

It’s possible the coronavirus can be spread by aerosol transmission, environmental health professor Donald Milton told The Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP) in a recent article

Earlier this week, Chinese officials said they believe the coronavirus is transmitted only by droplets, but Milton said the statement was most likely rooted in fear, not science. 

“To me this sounds like someone trying to deal with panic, because people panic when they hear airborne transmission and long-distance transmission," Milton told CIDRAP.

Milton, who studies airborne illness and is the director of the Maryland Institute for Applied Environmental Health, previously helped to prove that influenza could be spread via aerosol transmission. He says there has been scientific evidence that the Middle East respiratory syndrome-related coronavirus (EMC/2012) can spread by aerosol transmission, so it's possible that this coronavirus (COVID-19) can as well. 

Respiratory droplets, which come from sneezing and coughing, are too large to be buoyant on air currents, but respiratory aerosols are small enough to travel farther. 

"You cannot tell the difference epidemiologically between something aerosol transmitted by weak sources and large droplet spray," Milton told CIDRAP. "They behave so similar, it's very hard to pick up the difference."

Milton says the capability of long-distance transmission of the coronavirus will be connected with how symptomatic a person is. 

There is uncertainty surrounding how the coronavirus is spread, CIDRAP reports, but it's most likely through multiple modes, including large droplets, small droplets (aerosols) and contaminated hands. 

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CIDRAP: Unmasked: Experts explain necessary respiratory protection for COVID-19

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