Considering the current Coronavirus situation in US, which has reported 245,213 infection cases and over 5,900 deaths, White House may soon release nationwide recommendations on wearing face masks, said President Donald Trump during his Thursday briefing.
The idea appeared after a panel of experts sent a letter White House Science Adviser Kelvin Droegemeier stating that the Novel Coronavirus might be spreading through an exhaled breath.
The letter to White House about COVID-19 spread
The letter by Dr Harvey Fineberg, chair of the Standing Committee on Emerging Infectious Diseases and 21st Century Health Threats states that as per the current research, it is possible that the Novel Coronavirus could be spreading via bioaerosols generated directly by patients' exhalation.
It also cited a study by University of Nebraska Medical Center researchers that found the traces of the viral RNA in isolation rooms where the patients were kept under observation, while other detailed similar findings in samples from hospitals and public spaces in China's Wuhan were given.
Dr Fineberg noted in the letter, "While this research (from the University of Nebraska Medical Center) indicates that viral particles can be spread via bioaerosols, the authors stated that finding infectious virus has proved elusive and experiments are ongoing to determine viral activity in the collected samples."
In addition, Dr Mark Rupp, chief of the UNMC Division of Infectious Diseases, said that the virus "doesn't appear to spread like classic, airborne-spread viruses."
It should be noted that the letter also concludes by noting that further research is required to understand the risk of Coronavirus infection through breathing or talking, before reiterating its initial warning: "While the current SARS-CoV-2 specific research is limited, the results of available studies are consistent with aerosolization of virus from normal breathing."
The virus transmission
The letter also included a study which is currently under the review and includes other viruses. It says wearing surgical facemasks can help to contain the transmission of infections, while the study focused on masks worn by infected people rather than asymptomatic people. But it is pretty clear that despite lack of solid backup against these under review research papers, a core message was transmitted to the White House which is -- breathing and talking cannot be overlooked for playing a role in infection transfer.
However, as Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN, "If we do not have the problem of taking away the masks from the health care workers who need them, I would lean towards it."
What WHO said?
Here it should be mentioned that as per World Health Organization (WHO), airborne transmission may be possible in terms of COVID-19, in specific circumstances and settings in which procedures or support treatments that generate aerosols are performed such as endotracheal intubation, bronchoscopy, open suctioning, administration of nebulized treatment, manual ventilation before intubation, turning the patient to the prone position, disconnecting the patient from the ventilator, non-invasive positive-pressure ventilation, tracheostomy, and cardiopulmonary resuscitation.
WHO also added that airborne transmission is different from droplet transmission as it refers to the presence of microbes within droplet nuclei, which are generally considered to be particles <5μm in diameter, can remain in the air for long periods of time and be transmitted to others over distances greater than one meter.