Hyderabad: The novel coronavirus was found in air samples from hospital wards, which could be transiently air-borne, according to a study by Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) and CSIR-Institute of Microbial Technology (IMTech).
The study, which is yet to be peer-reviewed, found that the virus was present in air samples, particularly in the Covid wards of hospitals than the non-Covid wards. The virus was found in air for more than two hours, said a statement from the CCMB.
The chances of picking up SARS-CoV-2 in air is directly related to the number of Covid-positive cases in the room, their symptomatic status and the duration of exposure, the statement added.
When Covid-infected patients spend longer hours in a room, the virus is found in air for more than two hours, even further than 2 metres from where they have been seated, according to the study.
But for asymptomatic patients, the study revealed that the virus does not spread further from where they have been seated in a room without perceived air flow due to a fan or AC.
To analyse the virus presence in air samples, scientists worked in three hospitals in Hyderabad and Chandigarh. They used an air sampler that can collect the virus particles, and then looked for their presence using RT-PCR, according to the CCMB.
‘Social vaccines best prevention’
In the statement, CCMB director Rakesh Mishra said the results of the study strengthen the importance of Covid preventive guidelines that are already in place to tackle the pandemic.
“All these findings do show that the coronavirus can stay in air for some time… If we ensure that we follow hygiene protocols such as regular hand washing, using masks effectively and preventing symptomatic people from public mixing, we can start getting back to normalcy more comfortably,” he said.
“Detecting and isolating the positive cases early on can help prevent the spread among other family members in a home setting too,” Mishra added.
Mishra, in an earlier interview to ThePrint, had stressed on how India has a “great chance” to have a Covid variant emerging from within the country as it houses the second largest population infected with the virus.
“Cannot say the consequences if we have our own new variant — maybe it will be good or problematic and start reinfection,” he told ThePrint last week.
The study also pointed out how demarcation of Covid zones in hospitals turned out to be an effective strategy, considering that virus presence was found in Covid wards and near symptomatic patients.
“Till the vaccines are available, social vaccines i.e. wearing a mask is the best prevention,” said Dr Sanjeev Khosla, director, IMTech.