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ICMR Rules Out Possibility Of Airborne Transmission Of COVID-19, Cites Existing Evidence

Stressing the need to adopt an evidence-based approach, Dr. Raman Gangakhedkar of ICMR made it clear on Sunday that the novel coronavirus is not airborne

Written By
Akhil Oka

The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) made it clear on Sunday that the novel coronavirus is not airborne. Addressing a press briefing, Dr. Raman Gangakhedkar- the head of epidemiology and communicable diseases, ICMR stressed the need to adopt an evidence-based approach. For instance, he cited that if the virus was indeed airborne, all family members of a COVID-19 patient would have contracted the novel coronavirus, which was not the case. Moreover, he explained that scientific experiments often resulted in contrasting opinions. Currently, there are 3374 confirmed novel coronavirus cases in India out of which 277 people have recovered while 77 individuals have lost their lives. 

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Dr. Gangakhedkar remarked, "We have to understand that experiments in science result in opinions for and against. But we have to take a balanced,  evidence-based approach. For example, if this infection was airborne in reality, all the contacts especially family members should test positive (for COVID-19). They are living in the same atmosphere as the patient. When patients are admitted to a hospital, some of them are together for 6-8 hours without knowing whether any of them has contracted COVID-19. Despite having exposure, all these patients do not contract COVID-19."

He added, "We have to understand that some conclusions are based on experiments. For instance, some try to look inside the Goldberg drum to find out whether this virus can spread through the air. But this is an artificial drum. The suspension particle size in the drum is very less. In our language, we call it biological plausibility."

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Possibility of airborne transmission

There have been conflicting opinions over the possibility of airborne transmission of the novel coronavirus. While the WHO initially dismissed this theory, the research in this area has continued. For example, a group of researchers from the University of Nebraska Medical Centre and the National Strategic Research Institute at the University of Nebraska collected air samples from 11 rooms where 13 COVID-19 patients were being treated. They discovered that 63.2% of the air samples collected from the inside the rooms showed traces of the novel coronavirus. 

As per the WHO scientific brief published on March 29, airborne transmission implies that the droplets can be transmitted to other individuals over distances greater than 1 metre. It observed that COVID-19 can be airborne in specific circumstances in which procedures that generate aerosols are performed which include endotracheal intubation, bronchoscopy, cardiopulmonary resuscitation and so forth. Recently, Anthony Fauci, the director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases contended that the possibility of airborne transmission of COVID-19 could not be ruled out.

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