Airborne, Explained



There's lot of conflicting information out there right now about whether or not this novel. Corona virus is airborne as recently as this month. Some public health officials have said that it's not airborne but I just needed to confirm. This is the corner virus able from what we knew. It's not a gun. It's spread by droplets. We certainly stone. Cnn evidence of airborne spread in based on our local experience. The virus is not airborne. This is very different than infections that are transmitted by the airborne route such as measles. Roxanne Kenzi is a science reporter and she says that we need to take a closer look at this claim. You can't get scared by one word but you have to know what the word means if you break down at literally just means something's in the air so if you're coughing into your elbow and and your cash all that droplet into your elbow I mean at some point. It was in the air between your mouth and your elbow but it got caught. I I think that what the mistake is to think that something that is airborne is something that as soon as you cough. It's everywhere like that's that's just not the way to look at something so given all that. What exactly does airborne mean so? There is not a great answer to that question. I think that you can take a very simplistic view. Which means Airborne Indians? Something is in the air? I mean if you're open the dictionary that's what it means and if you were to ask people who are era. Biologists so the people who study how pathogens spread in the air. They'll say the same thing they'll say anything. That's in the air as airborne but a lot of fire Especially a lot of public. Health officials. Have the idea that something is airborne if it is spread by Aerosol and not by droplets now you're wondering what is the difference between droplets Arizona's right. Yeah that is one hundred percent what I'm thinking right now. So traditionally public health officials at least recently have been defining the droplet as something. That's like a ball of mucus and virus and salts that is larger than five microns in diameter. That you're GONNA COFFIN UP SPEWING OUT AND ANYTHING SMALLER THAN that. Could be an aerosol. That floats around like indefinitely in the air. Because it's lighter and it's floating her you know it's kind of imagine like a feather like floating in air okay. So there are large droplets that can float around in the air and they are fine aerosols that lasts longer in the air. That's the distinction right. And if you trace back where they came up with this. It goes back to these equations from the Nineteen Thirties where people were trying to figure out like tuberculosis. And how it spread. So we're talking about a really antiquated point of view on these things and hugely arbitrary like I asked the. Who How do you know that this Kobe thing is airborne? Had you know? It's like droplets and I did not get good answer from them. So why are some scientists still sing that we don't know if the virus that causes cove in nineteen is airborne because we don't I mean the thing is we actually don't have evidence to say whether it's airborne or not in a normal setting in settings where people are getting intimated and it's kind of spewing this thing into the air even the WHO says there is a risk of being airborne in the situations but we're operating in an absence of evidence? What I'm getting from us that there's really no like you can't tell me right now in the context of this interview. You can't tell me right now whether it is or it's not we just don't know exactly so the People. I spoke with who witnessed SARS almost twenty years ago and dealt with that public health disaster. They're saying that. We should operate on the precautionary principle that this is more easily airborne than were saying it is or assuming it is because technically does travel in the air so it is quote unquote airborne. So is this just a language thing? Is it just that most virologist think of something being airborne as being transmitted through fine aerosols as opposed to large droplets completely? We're talking about a failure of language in my opinion. So we're talking about of a a word that is failing us because it can't really capture all the nuances of the different situations. So if you're standing in front of an ocean and you feel the splash of the huge droplets of sea spray. Those are pretty big droplets. But it's the wind that's carrying it to your face. So could we not consider those airborne? I think that's what a lot of the people that study. This type of transmission are saying. Why do you think understanding this whole airborne situation when it comes to cove in nineteen and the virus that causes it? Why do you think that's important? I think it's important to understand how easily transmissible this viruses in the air first and foremost for Public Health Workers. So if we say as like the CDC said it's okay to wear like Bandannas in some situations with this if you're like encountering patient's or whatnot I think that's a problem. I think that we're loosening standards. Maybe a little too easily. Because this mantra has been repeated over and over that it's not airborne. What are the top three things that you think people are getting wrong right now? I think that the top three things that people are getting right now are that the virus is only transmissible by touch which is not something that I think we can assume. The second thing that they need to know is that we need to find out information about this before we can understand exactly how airborne it is. I think we have to reserve judgment and hang on for that and I think that the third thing that people need to know is that they need to be kind of up in arms about getting production of ninety five mass which are more effective than abandon. Ah in protecting health workers to increase than that. The government should really kind of be stepping up for that speaking of masks. There's a question that I know is on a lot of people's minds right now. Which is that. It's really hard to hear that People who work in medical fields should be wearing masks. These n ninety five masks but then to also here officials say to the public. Please don't purchase these. You don't need them. So how do you talk about that issue? How do you talk about to the public about this problem? So I'll speak about this issue about whether the public needs to buy masks on kind of personal level and that's I know right now. There's a shortage of mass and the people who need those masks most are doctors. Nurses people on the frontlines. And that if you're basically doing the social distancing that you're supposed to be doing right now you don't need a mask right if you earn keeping far apart from people and stay home like you don't need a mask right so I'm not here to say that masks don't work. I'm just here to say let's get them to the people who need the most. This whole confusion over the word airborne whether it's okay to use it maybe it's a matter of not necessarily using the word airborne but talking about people coughing in and talking about those kinds of risks a little bit more and in some ways. I would say that that's why we've been told to stay six feet away from people right. You're so smart because actually as I'm talking to you like I'm thinking what if we just didn't use the word airborne at all because it just means in the air so like what. If we started talking about measures that could just be more practical. You know right I mean I think I think that's probably part of what we're seeing right now. This whole speedway thing this whole. Don't stand next to somebody. Who's coughing thing. I think? Unofficially that is a way to talk about the fact that this is transmitted through the air and not just on surfaces But the word airborne evokes so much anxiety and fear that it is just not even worth using right now because we just don't understand it and and it hasn't been communicated to people properly

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