‘A Smoking Gun’: Infectious Coronavirus Retrieved From Hospital Air

Airborne virus plays a significant role in community transmission, many experts believe. A new study fills in the missing piece: Floating virus can infect cells.

Read: ‘A Smoking Gun’: Infectious Coronavirus Retrieved From Hospital Air

Yeah, I saw that. Even outside, masks are important. When I was in town the other week to have a slow leak repaired on a tire, there was a guy smoking and at some distance from the shop entrance. I passed maybe 20 feet away from him and could smell the smoke through my surgeon’s type mask. That reminded me of hiking in the mountains years ago when there was someone smoking some 200 feet from the trailhead, and you smell it even that far away.

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And speaking of smoking guns and cigarettes, I just checked and the relative sizes of cigarette smoke particles and SARS-CoV-2, and they are comparable – the same order of magnitude, anyway, with the virus being on the low end of the smoke particle range:

The SARS-CoV-2 is a large sized virus (approximately 120 nm in diameter).

…tobacco smoke as it comes from a cigarette is an extremely concentrated aerosol with a relatively stable distribution of sizes ranging from 0.1 to 1.0 micron, peaked between 0.2 and 0.25 micron.

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I am doubtful that aerosols are a significant player in infection because I would expect to see a much higher infection rate if this were the case. Measles is the classic example of a virus that infects through aerosols, and it has an R0 of 12 to 18. SARS-CoV-2 is around 2.5 to 3, and I would expect a much higher R0 for a virus spread by aerosol. On top of that, most of the evidence from known transmissions required close contact which wouldn’t be the case with a virus that was spread through aerosols. If SARS-CoV-2 is being spread through aerosols then it is in a small minority of cases, at least from the evidence I have seen.

It is also worth mentioning the difference between large droplets and aerosols. Large droplets will settle out of the air relatively quickly, hence the 6 foot (2 meter) social distancing rules. Aerosols are much smaller and can stay aloft for longer distances and longer time spans.

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Just because you can detect viral particles does not necessarily mean you can catch infection. It usually requires a larger number of particles to infect than just a few, call an infectious dose.
That said, many hospital workers have been infected despite PPE, and with inadequate PPE in the early going. I think about 900 health care workers, docs and nurses, have died.

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