The World Health Organization is considering new “airborne precautions” for medical professionals after a new study suggested that the coronavirus can survive in the air for hours.
Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, head of WHO’s emerging diseases and zoonosis unit, emphasized Monday the importance of health care workers taking additional measures when performing certain procedures on infected persons.
The everyday person shouldn’t be concerned, Van Kerkhove said, but medical staff may be susceptible when performing procedures such as intubation — where a tube is passed down a patient’s throat and into their airway to facilitate breathing.
“When you do an aerosol-generating procedure like in a medical care facility, you have the possibility to what we call aerosolize these particles, which means they can stay in the air a little bit longer,” Van Kerkhove said.
She added that it’s “very important that health care workers take additional precautions when they’re working on patients and doing those procedures.”
The virus is typically transmitted through droplets, such as when someone sneezes or coughs, but a new study indicated that it can remain suspended in the air for up to three hours.
The CDC currently recommends health care workers wear N95 masks — which are able to filter out about 95% of all liquid or airborne particles.
Van Kerkhove’s remarks come as health care professionals across the world battle on the front lines of COVID-19, which has infected more than 190,000 people as of Tuesday afternoon, according to a tally from John Hopkins University.