The American Academies of Sciences alerted, in a letter to the White House, of possible contamination by the new coronavirus by air. The virus could thus spread by speaking simply – and no longer only through coughing, sneezing or postillions. A hypothesis which would explain the high contagiousness of the virus.
As the pandemic spreads, scientists around the world are learning more about this new coronavirus, called SARS-CoV-2. If there are still many unknowns, American researchers may well have taken a big step.
Transmission possible via expired air
In letter addressed to the White House on Wednesday, the American Academies of Sciences evoke several preliminary scientific results which estimate that a transmission of the virus via the expired air (the “aerosols “ in scientific jargon) is possible.
Until now, the scientific community has agreed that the coronavirus is only transmitted by droplets sprayed during a sneeze – or cough – directly on the face of other people or on surfaces.
The information was taken up on American television by Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Infectious Diseases and Donald Trump’s adviser on the epidemic. The hypothesis of American scientists would provide a valid explanation – and long sought after – to the very high contagiousness of the virus responsible for the Covid-19 pandemic.
Preliminary results to be refined
Indeed, this contamination by air would explain why and how infected people without symptoms – which represent a quarter of cases – are responsible, without their knowledge, for a large number of contagions.
Harvey Fineberg, author of the letter on behalf of the Academies, cites four studies with consistent results. However, he also recalls that more and more research must be undertaken to judge the real risk of infection. Although it is present via respiration, it is not yet known to what extent it is a route of transmission of the virus.
Wearing a mask recommended in the United States
In a study, researchers at the University of Nebraska found portions of the virus’s genetic code (RNA) in the air of rooms where patients were isolated. But finding these pieces of virus is not the same as finding the whole virus.
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Also, Chinese researchers in Wuhan took air samples from various rooms in city hospitals and discovered high concentrations of the new coronavirus, especially in the toilets and rooms where the caregivers removed their protective equipment.
Faced with these discoveries – which have yet to be validated by other scientific studies – the wearing of a systematic mask could help to reduce transmission. Particularly from healthy carriers, such as now advocates the Academy of Medicine in France. In the United States, health authorities take the letter from the Academies very seriously and recommend covering their faces outside their homes.