More than 200 scientists are telling the World Health Organization that there is mounting evidence that the coronavirus can linger in the air in smaller particles and may be infectious in smaller quantities than previously thought, according to a report.
The 239 scientists from 32 countries are urging the UN agency to take more seriously the possibility of airborne spread of the illness, and are seeking to raise awareness about it in an upcoming paper titled “It is Time to Address Airborne Transmission of Covid-19,” The Washington Post reported.
The scientists say the potential of the bug to spread through airborne transmission has not been fully appreciated even by public health institutions, including the WHO, which has faced criticism over its response to the pandemic, according to the newspaper.
In April, President Trump announced that he was freezing all new funding to the WHO. In late May, he said the US planned to withdraw from the agency.
The scientists’ paper was shared with The Washington Post ahead of publication this week in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.
The fact that they are seeking pressure the WHO with a paper is unusual, analysts told the news outlet.
“WHO’s credibility is being undermined through a steady drip-drip of confusing messages, including asymptomatic spread, the use of masks, and now airborne transmission,” Lawrence Gostin, a professor of global health law at Georgetown University, told The Washington Post.
Gostin, who provides technical assistance to the WHO, praised it for hosting briefings and acknowledged that the agency is in a difficult spot because it “has to make recommendations for the entire world and it feels it needs irrefutable scientific proof before coming to a conclusion.”
But he warned that “the public, and even scientists, will lose full confidence in WHO without clearer technical guidance.”
A WHO spokesperson told the newspaper that the agency, which has repeatedly defended its handling of the outbreak, will have technical experts review the matter.
The WHO has said that COVID-19 spreads primarily from person to person through small droplets from the nose or mouth, which are expelled when an infected person coughs, sneezes or speaks.
The health agency said the evidence for the virus being airborne was not convincing, according to The New York Times.
“Especially in the last couple of months, we have been stating several times that we consider airborne transmission as possible but certainly not supported by solid or even clear evidence,” Dr. Benedetta Allegranzi, the WHO’s technical lead of infection prevention and control, told the newspaper.
“There is a strong debate on this,” she added.
With Post wires