Galveston – Last week, the World Health Organization stated small particles in the air could transmit the coronavirus.
Scientists have long been saying the virus is airborne. So, what changed?
Scott Weaver, MD, with UTMB, said how long and how potent these invisible airborne particles are is now better understood.
“These tiny droplets that are part of aerosols, they can remain suspended in the air for several hours and the virus remains stable in the droplets,” Weaver said.
How to protect yourself
This is significant because knowing how dangerous airborne particles are tells them the importance of everyone wearing masks. It also gives us an idea of what we can do to protect our homes and businesses.
Air filters or air purifiers that can capture particles below five microns, Weaver said, can filter the air clean of particles that could potentially make you sick. You'll need to read the packaging to make sure it's designed to capture particles that small.
KPRC 2 showed Weaver an example of one purifier that claims to filter 0.3 microns.
“It should be useful if sized for an appropriate space,” he said. “Usually the descriptor ‘HEPA’ is a good indication of the ability to filter aerosols.”
Nothing is a replacement for keeping your distance
“For every doubling of distance from that person expelling the aerosol, you are reducing the concentration you’re breathing by ten-fold,” Weaver said.
Staying in one place, like sitting at a table in a restaurant, is safer than moving around the room like at parties, Weaver said.
“The virus can remain infectious for at least 16 hours. So, if there’s a place with stagnant air space, people close together especially, distance still matters. If the air is particularly stagnant and people are particularly crowded, that aerosol can fill up a small room and infect many people,” Weaver said.
Do not turn off air conditioners
If someone in your household has the virus, you do not want to turn off the air conditioning.
Weaver said moving the air, and therefore diluting it, can reduce the risk of infection.