Scientists warn Corona Virus is spread through airborne transmission indoors

Hundreds of international scientists are urging the World Health Organisation to revise its guidelines about the airborne transmission of coronavirus.In an open letter, 239 experts from 32 countries point to new research that shows an infected person exhales airborne virus droplets when breathing and talking that can travel further than the current 1.5m social distance requirement.The research, from Queensland University of Technology,  shows poor ventilation in public buildings, workplace environments, schools, hospitals, aged care homes, or activities such as singing, contribute to viral spread.

Social distancing signage is seen  at Mount Buller.
Experts say the 1.5m social distancing rule may not be enough. (Getty)

Improved ventilation is vital for protecting against airborne infection transmission, the scientists warned.Led by Professor Lidia Morawska, the experts say the 1.5 metre social distancing rule is not far enough.”Studies by the signatories and other scientists have demonstrated beyond any reasonable doubt that viruses are exhaled in microdroplets small enough to remain aloft in the air and pose a risk of exposure beyond 1m to 2m by an infected person,” Professor Morawska said.”At typical indoor air velocities, a five-micron droplet will travel tens of metres, much greater than the scale of a typical room while settling from a height of 1.5m above the floor.”

A member of the ADF administers a COVID-19 test at Melbourne Showgrounds.
The group of scientists say an infected person exhales airborne virus droplets when breathing and talking that can travel further than the current 1.5m social distance requirement. (Getty)

Signatories to the appeal come from many disciplines including different areas of science and engineering, including virology, aerosol physics, flow dynamics, exposure and epidemiology, medicine, and building engineering.

A sign for COVID-19 Testing in Melbourne.
Experts still recommend hand-washing. (Getty)

Professor Morawska said there are affordable simple measures that can be taken to lessen the risk of airborne infection in buildings:

  • Provide sufficient and effective ventilation (supply clean outdoor air, minimise recirculating air) particularly in public buildings, workplace environments, schools, hospitals, and aged care homes.
  • Supplement general ventilation with airborne infection controls such as local exhaust, high efficiency air filtration, and germicidal ultraviolet lights.
  • Avoid overcrowding, particularly in public transport and public buildings.

“Hand-washing and social distancing are appropriate, but it is view, insufficient to provide protection from virus-carrying respiratory microdroplets released into the air by infected people,” she said.The appeal is to be published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.

The Deadly Bubonic Plague is Back in China

Chinese authorities are on high alert after a case of Bubonic plague, the disease that caused the Black Death and killed half of Europe, emerged last week in the northern autonomous region, Inner Mongolia.

According to the state-run Xinhua news agency, the patient is a herdsman and a resident of Bayannur city. Though the condition of the patient is stable, local authorities have quarantined the patient as a precautionary measure.

Moreover, municipal authorities in Bayannur have issued a Level 3 warning for plague prevention. The second-lowest warning in a four-level system will remain in effect until the end of 2020.

Locals have been ordered precautionary measures against the plague. Bayannur residents have been asked to give up hunting and consumption of animals that are known to cause plague infections.

Authorities have urged residents to report suspected cases of the plague and sudden deaths that occur in the area from now on.

At present, there is a high risk of a human plague epidemic spreading in this city. The public should improve its self-protection awareness and ability, and report abnormal health conditions promptly.

Bayannur authorities have also asked locals to report dead or sick marmots, a type of large ground squirrel that has historically caused plague outbreaks in the region.

The 1911 Pneumonic plague in Northern China that killed more than 63,000 people was caused by a marmot.

Last week, Mongolia had reported 2 cases of Bubonic plague as well. According to details, the two patients who are brothers had eaten a marmot days before developing symptoms of the plague.

Bubonic Plague

Caused by bacteria and transmitted through flea bites and infected animals, Bubonic plague is one of the deadliest bacterial infections in human history.

The infection had killed more than 50 million people during the Middle Ages in what is commonly known as Black Death.

There are three forms of Plague; Bubonic plague, Septicemic plague, and Pneumonic plague.

Symptoms of the Plague include painful swollen lymph nodes, high fever, severe chills, and persistent cough which develop after 3 to 7 days.

Another Epidemic?

Healthcare experts have suggested that it is unlikely that the recent Bubonic plague cases will lead to an epidemic.

Dr. Shanti Kappagoda, an infectious disease doctor at Stanford Health Care, has said that unlike in the Middle Ages, doctors now have greater knowledge about the Bubonic plague.

We know how to prevent the Bubonic plague. We have also treated the infected patients with effective antibiotics. Unlike in the 14th Century, we now have an understanding of how this disease is transmitted.

It is worth mentioning here that currently there is no effective vaccine available against the plague. However, over the years, modern antibiotics, when administered timely, have helped in preventing complications and deaths.

Corona Virus cases in Pakistan on the rise!

Pakistan this week added a total of 25,306 new coronavirus cases, just slightly down from 25,424 cases that we had reported last week.

After notable decline in weekly cases for two consecutive weeks when new weekly cases dropped 37% in two weeks, it appears the declining trend has stopped and that the number of new cases have started to rebound.

Before we move forward, check below graph for illustration of what’s said above:

As evident from the graph, the declining trend has stopped and weekly new cases are higher than the expected number. If we had continued our trend then new cases in current week should have been around 20K, which is clearly not the case.

To dig this further, we tried to find out the reason for higher than expected number and appears that Sindh and AJK regions are to be blamed here. Punjab’s decline in cases was also marginal, but it still showed a negative growth of 8.30%.

KP, Islamabad and Balochistan were on track and showed 38%, 50% and 51% negative growth respectively.

As mentioned above, Sindh and AJK rebounded and showed 15% and 43% growth respectively. More in below graphs:

Number of deaths, after showing a decline last week, have rebounded as well and reached 595 as compared to 577 deaths we had recorded last week.

This shows that the efforts we have been making are still not enough and some regions, such as Sindh, AJK and Punjab has still a long way before making it to the safe zone.

Number of Tests

One thing which also declined during past week was number of samples that we tested in a week.

During this week we tested a total of 158,461 samples, down from 160,000 samples that were tested a week ago.

While the capacity has increased, the decline in testing is not understandable. While government officials have tried to justify the decline by saying that international inbound passengers are not tested anymore, also that pool testing is done throughout the country, their arguments aren’t convincing enough.

What seemingly is the case that a lot of positive cases are not showing up at testing facilities as they start isolating themselves at home — mainly on recommendation of local (private) physicians.

If such is the case, then its more concerning as true number of positive cases could be much higher than the reported number. Which essentially means that above mentioned reported numbers could be misleading and may not be deemed as the real depiction of ground situation.

Check below the latest on several indicators for all the regions:

Total CasesDeathsDeath RateDeaths Per MillionTotal TestsTests Per 1,000
AJK1,342362.68%8.9117,4984.33
Balochistan10,8141231.14%9.9751,0164.13
GB1,561281.79%14.7413,8007.26
Islamabad13,4941371.02%68.50136,49768.25
KP28,1161,0283.66%33.68158,8615.21
Punjab81,9631,8842.30%17.13540,8374.92
Sindh94,5281,5261.61%31.87502,27910.49
Total231,8184,7622.05%22.821,420,7886.81