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article imageAirborne transmission of COVID-19 not part of Canada's guidelines

By Karen Graham     Oct 10, 2020 in Health
Canada's guidelines on how COVID-19 spreads still do not acknowledge the threat of infection through airborne transmission, despite other countries and international health organizations updating their stance on the issue.
Around the world, many health agencies have concluded, based on a number of studies, that the coronavirus can be spread through airborne transmission of microscopic particles to people who are more than 6 feet away under certain conditions. Yet, Canada has not followed the lead in updating its COVID-19 guidelines, according to CBC Canada.
From its onset, it was believed that the coronavirus was only spread by large droplets that supposedly fell to the ground within an area of 2 meters, or 6.5 feet. Then, scientists learned the virus could also be transmitted when in close personal contact with an infected person, such as shaking hands.
And as the pandemic has continued to spread around the world, scientists have learned a lot more about this novel coronavirus, including how it has evolved and how it is changing. It is important to remember that this particular virus is totally new to humankind, so everything we learn as time goes on is necessary to maintaining our health.
In July, the World Health Organization (WHO) came under fire after 239 scientists from 32 countries wrote an open letter calling on the United Nations agency to update its guidelines to include that the coronavirus can be transmitted by airborne particles.
The WHO and CDC revise their guidelines
Just a few days later, WHO updated its guidelines to include an acknowledgement that small airborne droplets, known as aerosols, can lead to outbreaks of COVID-19 in places like choir practices, restaurants and fitness classes.
The revised WHO guidelines also note that "transmission may also occur indirectly through touching surfaces in the immediate environment or objects contaminated with virus from an infected person (e.g. stethoscope or thermometer), followed by touching the mouth, nose, or eyes."
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) again updated its guidelines on Monday to say COVID-19 can sometimes be spread by airborne transmission, after mistakenly posting and later removing a draft version of guidelines. The CDC and WHO join a growing list of countries, like Germany and Italy, that now acknowledge the transmission of the virus through aitborne particles, or aerosols.
"I was happy and relieved, because now they're acknowledging the best available science that we have," said Linsey Marr, an expert in the transmission of viruses by aerosol at Virginia Tech. "You're not going to be able to bend the curve unless you pay attention to this transmission route."
No plans to update guidelines in Canada
The Public Health Agency of Canada's (PHAC) guidelines make no mention of aerosol transmission and instead say the virus spreads only through breathing in respiratory droplets, touching contaminated surfaces and common greetings like handshakes and hugs.
PHAC told CBC News it is not updating its guidance on airborne transmission — even though it admits aerosol spread has happened. "Aerosol transmission of COVID-19 in ventilated and unventilated environments continues to be studied," a statement from the federal agency stated. "There have been situations where aerosol transmission in closed settings has occurred."
More about coronavirus, PHAC, New guidelines, airborna transmission, Canada
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