World Health Organization team heads China to probe origin of COVID-19

Elias Hubbard
July 11, 2020

The updated brief said "some outbreak reports" related to indoor crowded spaces with poorly ventilated settings have "suggested the possibility" of aerosol transmission, combined with droplet transmission - for instance, during choir practice, in restaurants or in fitness classes. We're also looking at the possible role of airborne transmission in other settings, particularly close settings where you have poor ventilation. This happens when larger droplets from coughs and sneezes fall quickly to the floor or onto another person.

U.S. President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have said the pathogen may have originated in a laboratory in Wuhan, although they have presented no evidence for this and China has denied it. Scientists and U.S. intelligence agencies have said it emerged in nature.

The WHO is producing a scientific brief summarizing their findings and research on transmission after engaging with epidemiologists and clinicians, IPC specialists, engineers, and mathematical modellers.

The report follows an open letter from aerobiologists - scientists who specialise in the spread of disease in the air - urging the world body to update its guidance on how the respiratory disease spreads to include aerosol transmission.

Why it matters: Hundreds of scientists around the world have called on the WHO, which informs public health policy around the world, to acknowledge that particles containing the virus can float indoors and remain infectious, per the New York Times.

The agency agrees with two forms of transmission of Covid-19 - through saliva droplets from an infected person and touching of contaminated surfaces.

Chief Scientist Dr Soumya Swaminathan said coronavirus can survive in air and transmit but "in a very limited environment". Following this, World Health Organization has released an updated guidance on the role of airborne droplets in transmission of COVID-19.

"This will help lay the groundwork for the WHO-led worldwide mission into finding the origins", he said.

In closed spaces at schools, offices and hospitals, increasing proper ventilation with outdoor air by opening windows can also mitigate the risk of infection, Jimenez said.

World Health Organization staff members are reluctant to make statements when they do not have irrefutable proof of certain phenomena, and they are slow to update their hypotheses, scientists have charged. Julian Tang, honorary professor of respiratory sciences at the University of Leicester in the United Kingdom, said in an email. But the organization has now added that people without symptoms are also capable of transmitting the disease. "Isn't that what the WHO stands for - the improvement of human health from all angles?"

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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