People infected with the novel coronavirus can produce widespread contamination of their environment, according to the initial phases of a new joint study published over the weekend.
The report noted that COVID-19 found in air samples provided limited evidence that there is the potential for airborne transmission.
In the study, conducted by the University of Nebraska Medical Center, the National Strategic Research Institute at the University of Nebraska and others, researchers collected air and surface samples from 11 isolation rooms where 13 people who tested positive for COVID-19 were staying.
The virus which originated in Wuhan, China, has infected more than 777,000 people worldwide and killed more than 37,000, according to Johns Hopkins University, was detected within the patients’ rooms.
Additionally, “air samplers from hallways outside of rooms where [the] staff was moving in and out of doors were also positive,” they wrote.
“These findings indicate that disease might be spread through both direct (droplet and person-to-person) as well as indirect contact (contaminated objects and airborne transmission) and suggests airborne isolation precautions could be appropriate,” they concluded, noting that the findings also suggest that even mildly ill COVID-19 patients, “may create aerosols of virus and contaminate surfaces that may pose a risk for transmission.”
The authors in the study stressed the importance of personal protective equipment, or PPEs, and the use of negative pressure rooms for patients with the virus.
"Our team was already taking airborne precautions with the initial patients we cared for," said James Lawler, an infectious diseases expert and director of the Global Center for Health Security at UNMC, in a statement. "This report reinforces our suspicions. It’s why we have maintained COVID patients in rooms equipped with negative airflow and will continue to make efforts to do so -- even with an increase in the number of patients. Our health care workers providing care will be equipped with the appropriate level of personal protective equipment. Obviously, more research is required to be able to characterize environmental risk."
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