A group of 239 scientists representing 32 countries is reportedly preparing to ask the World Health Organization (WHO) to revise its recommendations for the novel coronavirus due to evidence it says supports the claim the disease is airborne.
The scientists are expected to publish an open letter making the request in a scientific journal next week, according to The New York Times. The letter is set to offer evidence that supports the position that smaller particles of the coronavirus can travel through the air and infect people.
The WHO has held that COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, is transmitted mostly by large respiratory droplets that fall to floor after being discharged via a sneeze or cough. The agency has said the virus is primarily spread through person-to-person contact and indirect contact with surfaces in the immediate environment of an infected individual.
A segment of the scientific community says evidence shows that the virus is borne through the air and can infect individuals upon being inhaled, the Times reported, noting that small particles can travel quickly following a sneeze. Exhaled droplets of the virus can travel more gradually the length of a room, some scientists say.
Airborne transmission would reportedly become a significant factor for response efforts. Masks would possibly be necessary in all indoor settings, regardless of whether social distancing was maintained. Health care workers would also likely require N95 masks that can filter out minuscule coronavirus particles.
Benedetta Allegranzi, technical lead on infection control for the WHO, told the Times that there is still a lack of solid evidence on airborne transmission.
"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," she said. "There is a strong debate on this."
WHO did not immediately return a request for further comment from The Hill.
The letter is expected to come as parts of the world, including the U.S., experience a surge in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations stemming from the disease. The WHO reported more than 200,000 cases of the virus on Saturday, marking a new high in infections over a 24-hour period.
As of Sunday, health officials had reported more than 11 million cases of COVID-19 and roughly 530,000 deaths stemming from it worldwide, according to a Johns Hopkins University database.