Understanding the Transmission of COVID-19

Understanding the Transmission of COVID-19

Our understanding of the COVID-19 virus continues to evolve quickly. To date, researchers have learned that the virus is spread by close-contact transmission, long-range transmission, and fomites. Isolating those who are infected with the virus decreases all forms of transmission; our risk reduction strategies of daily health screenings and illness protocols which require staying home when sick both support this concept.

Close-contact spread occurs via coughing, sneezing, exhaling, speaking, or singing when virus is transported via droplets or aerosols that land directly on eyes, nose, mouth, or respiratory tract membranes (Jones et al., 2020). Coughing or sneezing into elbows or covering coughs and sneezes with a tissue, throwing the tissue away, and washing hands immediately all comprise our risk reduction strategy of respiratory etiquette which reduces this type of virus spread. Our risk reduction strategies of face coverings and physical distancing also reduce this transmission. 

Long-range transmission “refers to transmission of virus in aerosols, which may be generated when an infectious person exhales, speaks, sneezes, or coughs and then travel out of the immediate 6-foot vicinity of the infectious person via airflow patterns when virus is aerosolized and remains in the air for a period of time” (Jones et al., 2020). Our risk reduction strategy of appropriate ventilation techniques including outside air mixing and filtering help manage this vector. 

Finally, the virus may be transmitted by fomites, which are inanimate objects like tables, hand railings, or door jambs. The surface could become contaminated by someone sneezing directly on it, or after coughing in their hand and touching the object. How long the virus lasts depends on the surface and environmental conditions; the strength of the virus decreases with time and after 24-72 hours is believed gone. Our risk reduction strategies of handwashing along with cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting reduce this method of transmission. (Jones et al., 2020). 

Data shows that, in households, children are rarely the primary vectors of COVID-19 spread. Studies internationally show little to no transmission of virus from children to other children or to adults: “0/122 other children in France, 0/924 children and 0/101 adults in Ireland, and 2/735 children and 0/128 adults in Australia” (Colorado Health Institute & Metro Denver Partnership for Health, 2020). A recent article in Pediatrics further states:

Almost 6 months into the pandemic, accumulating evidence and collective experience argue that children, particularly school-aged children, are far less important drivers of SARS CoV- 2 transmission than adults. Therefore, serious consideration should be paid toward strategies that allow schools to remain open, even during periods of COVID-19 spread. In doing so, we could minimize the potentially profound adverse social, developmental, and health costs that our children will continue to suffer until an effective treatment or vaccine can be developed and distributed or, failing that, until we reach herd immunity. (Lee & Raszka, 2020)

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