It has been a while since there has been talk of anything other than the pandemic – and related or related problems. For, in the case of a new virus that scientists from all over the planet are trying to understand in order to be able to fight, it is clear that almost daily we hear news about Sars-Cov-2, how it acts and how it affects humans.
In this sense, we have been following the debate for months on what mechanisms the new coronavirus uses to spread – and one of the means that often comes into discussion is aerosol dispersion. The term does not refer to “stray”, but to microscopic droplets, with diameters equivalent to 1 tenth of a hair, that can remain in suspension for hours and carry pathogens from tens of meters away, depending on the circumstances to which they are exposed .
It is known that the new coronavirus can “hitchhike” saliva and other secretions expelled when we cough or sneeze – “landing” and contaminating surfaces and bodies – hence the advice that we should clean our hands frequently, use a mask, avoid agglomerations or circulating in public places and maintaining social distance.
We are not talking about losers!Source: Medical Xpress / Reproduction
However, with regard to aerosols, although this mode of transmission is still being studied, there is strong evidence that Sars-CoV-19 could, indeed, contaminate people through suspended microdroplets. According to Jim Daley of Smithsonianmag.com, how long the virus can remain dispersed in an environment and how far it can travel depends on the size of the droplet in which it is inserted – and research conducted since the beginning of the pandemic (you can find the links in the references at the end of the article) demonstrated that the coronavirus is able to remain viable in aerosols for periods ranging from 1 to 16 hours.
In addition, different studies have revealed that Sars-CoV-19, in addition to remaining suspended in the air, could be exhaled by the breath of contaminated individuals – and therefore would have the potential to infect people in this way. In addition, there are records that suggest the transmission of the virus in crowded situations in closed places and with inadequate ventilation.
The studies also involved examining the level of protection offered by different types of masks, determining that they serve as barriers to a greater or lesser degree, depending on the material and the way they are produced. Research also pointed out that social distance is effective, yes, to prevent contamination, since the “cloud” of aerosols (and possibly viruses) is greater close to infected people, obviously. But, what after the peak of the pandemic has passed and the protective measures are definitely relaxed?
Robust evidenceSource: USA Today / Reproduction
It is important to highlight that, although we are in a hurry to determine how to prevent transmission and fight Sars-CoV-19 once and for all, we are talking about a complex and time-consuming process. To get an idea, even though we know that tuberculosis has been caused by a bacterium since 1882, it was only in 2004 that scientists concluded that the pathogen could be transmitted through the air, and in 2014 that through the breath of those infected as well.
In the case of Sars-CoV-19, it has already been determined that it is able to survive in the environment and remain suspended in aerosols. Regarding the infection, although scientists have not yet demonstrated that it can occur through microdroplets inhaled by humans, it is known that some animals have been contaminated in this way. And if it is proven that the virus can infect us in this way, we will be forced to rethink current protection measures and develop more effective ventilation and filtering systems for indoor environments, especially public buildings, commercial spaces and means of transport that concentrate people.