Self isolation does not stop COVID from spreading, finds a new study. The study is the first to show that SARS-CoV2 RNA may be found in household air under normal living settings when one of the members of the household is infected.
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Researchers found RNA from SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, in tiny airborne particles both inside and outside rooms where affected persons were self-isolating at home.
This research implies that airborne transmission outside of isolation rooms in houses could pose a danger of infection to other household members.
The study, published in the Annals of the American Thoracic Society, is the first to show that SARS-CoV2 RNA may be found in household air under normal living settings when one of the members of the household is infected. COVID-19 infection rates are thought to be higher among those with lower incomes due to airborne transmission in crowded living settings.
Howard Kipen, who is the lead author of the study is a professor at the Rutgers School of Public Health and the director of Clinical Research and Occupational Medicine at the Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute said, “Risk of infection from larger respiratory droplets that rapidly settle onto surfaces, typically within two meters of the source, can be reduced by hand-washing, social distancing, and face masks, but the tiny respiratory particles that stay suspended in air for hours, require air filtration, ventilation, or better masks for prevention”.
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To test for the presence of three SARS-CoV-2-specific genes in airborne particles, the researchers took air samples from 11 rooms in residences where a newly infected person was self-isolating, as well as from an adjacent common room.
Six of the 11 isolation rooms and six of the nine common rooms had positive air samples for at least one of three viral genes. There were no other cases documented in seven of the nine residences.
Researchers requested participants to keep track of their time in the isolation room and the common area in order to better understand how the virus spreads in the home.
Kipen further added,“We discovered that many did not strictly adhere to self-isolation, with eight of the 11 infected study participants reporting spending from a few hours to 14 hours in the common room and five of 11 participants reporting spending time in other areas of the home”.
In four of the residences, other residents were positive or showed symptoms as well.
“Our indoor air sampling data clearly demonstrated that measurable airborne SARS-CoV-2 RNA was present in the air in the homes of most infected people, not only in the isolation room, but, importantly, elsewhere in the home,” Kipen said.
“The findings show that tiny airborne particles containing SARS-CoV-2 RNA can be found in homes of infected individuals beyond the room where they are supposedly self-isolating.”