The pandemic of the emerging coronavirus has brought back an ancient dispute among medical experts over the transmission of diseases, a dispute dating back nearly a century, since the inception of bacteriology.
“The slow pace of WHO action on this issue, unfortunately, is the slow pace of controlling this epidemic,” said Jose Jimenez, a chemist at the University of Colorado who co-signed a public message urging the WHO to change its guidance on the Corona epidemic.
Jimenez and other experts on the transmission of infection by aerosols added that the WHO sticks firmly to the idea that germs are spread mainly through contact with an infected person or something contaminated. This idea is one of the pillars of modern medicine, and it explicitly rejects the theory of the transmission of diseases through the rotten air that arose in the Middle Ages and assumes that the smelly, foul-smelling fumes that make up a substance such as cholera and plague.
“This is part of the culture of medicine in the early twentieth century. Acceptance that something airborne requires a high level of proof,” said Dr. Donald Milton, a particle-to-air expert at the University of Maryland and one of the main authors of the thesis.
The signatories of the letter said that this evidence could include studies of laboratory animals infected with the virus due to exposure to the virus in the air or studies showing viable virus particles in air samples – a level of evidence not required for other transmission patterns, such as contact with contaminated surfaces.
For the World Health Organization, this guide is necessary because it advises countries on their various incomes and resources to take tougher measures in the face of the Corona pandemic, which has so far killed more than 550,000 people worldwide, with more than 12 million confirmed infections.
The latest WHO guidance document, released on Thursday, called for more research on the potential for corona transmission through the air, which it said had “not been proven”.
In turn, Dr. John Conley, an infectious disease expert at the University of Calgary, who is part of the WHO expert group advising on guidance on corona virus, said that studies have yet to show viable viral particles floating in the air. And he added, “I want to see evidence of this light mist.”
Conley and others asserted that if the virus were really transmitted through the air like measles, the number of infections would now be much greater.
Dr Margaret Harris, a WHO spokesperson, rejected the criticism that the organization was opposed to the idea of the virus being transmitted through aerosols, saying that the organization had recognized the possibility of it being airlifted during medical procedures early in the pandemic.
“It is quite possible that aerosols may be a factor in some widespread events such as those in which an infected person transports many to crowded places. Many of these events occurred in places such as nightclubs where people are crowded without the most likely caution about protecting themselves,” said Harris. Or others from infection. ”
“Most of the outbreaks occurred in poorly ventilated, closed spaces and during a congestion in which it was difficult to take into account social spacing,” said Harris.
She added that for this reason, the organization called for urgent studies to find out “what really happened in these gatherings and what are the main factors.”
Last week, the organization acknowledged that the emerging coronavirus could spread through tiny airborne droplets, in a move that highlighted the opinions of more than 200 aerosols experts publicly complaining that the United Nations organization had not warned people of this danger.