Plausibility of the aerosol transmission of COVID‑19 – Is SARS-CoV-2 aerosolized by breathing and speaking?

Olfert, Jason | $50,000

Alberta University of Alberta 2020 NSERC Alliance COVID-19 Grant

Aerosols are defined as any solid or liquid particle suspended in a gas (e.g. air). Aerosols may be produced by humans (e.g. by breathing, speaking, coughing and sneezing), transported in the air, and inhaled. It is well known that aerosol particles are an important vector for the spread of infectious diseases such as tuberculosis and there is strong evidence for the aerosol transmission of SARS-CoV-1. The novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, which causes the disease COVID-19, is carried in the nose and throat of those infected regardless of whether they are symptomatic or asymptomatic and has been shown to remain viable in an aerosol and on surfaces. It is not yet known if SARS-CoV-2 is transmitted directly or indirectly by aerosols or what role or relative importance aerosols may play in its transmission. However, it must not be ruled out that aerosol transmission of SARS-CoV-2 is a possible mechanism for the spread of COVID-19. This work aims to test the hypothesis that SARS-CoV-2 may be aerosolized by natural expiratory events (i.e. by breathing, speaking and coughing) by using established techniques for characterization of aerosols and identification of viruses. The results may inform infection control interventions in Canada and worldwide.

With funding from the Government of Canada

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