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Current Affairs

Exhaled breath of covid-19 patients may contain virus

Date: 13 July 2020 Tags: Miscellaneous

Issue

The World Health Organization indicated that even breathing by patients may spread novel coronavirus into the air. 

 

Background

A study had earlier found airborne coronavirus in a patient’s breath. A couple of more studies found airborne transmission of the virus during breathing and speaking. 

 

Details

  • The study adds to the existing body of evidence that suggests airborne transmission of the virus can play a role in virus spread. The study found that breath contained the virus, especially during the early stages of the disease.

  • WHO has acknowledged that coronavirus can be airborne in closed settings that lack good ventilation, and it can spread from one person to another in such settings on prolonged exposure.

  • The authors write that the virus levels in exhaled breath could reach 1,00,000 to 1,00,00,000 copies per metre cube at an average breathing rate of 12 litres per minute. This would mean that a COVID-19 patient can exhale millions of virus particles per hour.

  • The emission rate of the virus was found to be influenced by a few factors such as disease stage, patient activity, and, possibly, age.

  • They found that the SARS-CoV-2 breath emission rate into the air was the highest during the earlier stages of COVID-19.

  • However, the virus emission was not found to be continuous or at the same rate, but was rather a “sporadic event”. For instance, two breath samples collected from the same patient on different dates returned to different test results.

  • The virus was found on five categories of surfaces — toilet pits, hospital floor, other surfaces, patient-touching surfaces, and medical-touching surfaces. No virus was found on handles.

  • Large respiratory droplets and direct contact with contaminated surfaces are currently considered dominant routes of virus spread. But the present study has found that frequently touched surfaces like mobile phones have very low probability of virus presence.