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Airborne Transmission of COVID-19

August 5, 2021
Contact: Danny Forcucci
716-204-7125 ext. 1005

FACT OR FICTION? Airborne Transmission of COVID-19  

With cases of COVID-19 on the rise across the globe, it is critical we fully understand how the disease is transmitted so that we may protect ourselves and work to slow its spread.   

According to guidance provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the inhalation of aerosol particles containing the virus exists as a primary source of COVID-19 transmission [1]. With this in mind, it is important we separate fact from fiction when understanding how the virus spreads and the measures we can take to avoid infection.  

FACT: Large events in enclosed spaces account for substantial airborne COVID-19 transmission opportunities.  

Multiple factors can contribute to the spread of the virus. These include room sizes, ventilation, and human behaviors. 

FICTION: Masks do not help in preventing COVID-19.  

Masks, in fact, play a significant role in preventing airborne respiratory droplets from reaching others. Studies show that masks reduce the spray of droplets when worn over the nose and mouth [2] 

FACT: Transmission of the virus is higher indoors than outdoors, but can be helped with proper ventilation. 

Indoor ventilation challenges are often inherently unavoidable. This leads to airborne viral particles becoming particularly concentrated. However, ventilation strategies can help reduce indoor viral particle concentration problems. These include introducing outdoor air by opening windows (if weather permits) and ensuring ventilation systems operate properly, and providing acceptable indoor air quality for the current occupancy level for each space [3]. 

FICTION: The virus is only spread through contact with contaminated surfaces.  

Studies have shown that transmission of the virus through touch is less likely than through airborne transmission [4].   

FACT: Coronavirus can stay infectious in the air for up to 3 hours [5]. 

An aerosol is a fine mist of liquid suspended in a gas with the ability to remain in the air for a considerable amount of time. However, some factors, such as air temperature and humidity, may also play an important role.  

FICTION: COVID-19 spreads through HVAC systems.  

There is no definite evidence that the virus has been transmitted through an HVAC system [6], however, improving a building’s ventilation can help reduce the spread of the disease and lower the risk of exposure.  

What we know about how COVID-19 spreads is constantly developing, and as a result, public health guidance will continue to evolve. In the meantime, it is important to follow valid resources that include the World Health Organization and the CDC when researching COVID-19.  

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