Coronavirus: Are elevators safe?

Can you catch COVID-19 from someone that previous was in the elevator?

The coronavirus floats in the air in the form of drops only for a few seconds after someone sneezes or coughs. It is then able to travel a short distance before gravitational forces bring it to the ground.

If the coronavirus particles present in mucus drops or saliva could float in the air for as long as the measles virus, then anyone entering such a pathogenic cloud, e.g. in an elevator, could be infected.

Everything indicates that the coronavirus does not spread as an aerosol (a condition in which solid particles persist in gas due to physical and chemical forces).

Scientists from Singapore prove this. Their article appeared in the journal of the American Medical Association. Researchers tested the air in the rooms of three COVID-19 patients. They did not find any virus particles in the air, even when they took samples on days when patients were symptomatic and strongly “coughing out” the virus. In the patient’s room with the most symptoms, the virus particles were present in the ventilation ducts and on many surfaces, but all air samples were negative.

This study suggests that coronaviral aerosols are extremely rare. But when something is “rare”, it doesn’t mean “never.”

Chinese scientists from the University of Wuhan, where the COVID-19 epidemic broke out, took 35 air samples from two hospitals and public places. They found no pathogen in the air of intensive care rooms in which patients with COVID-19 or hospital corridors were treated. However, they discovered it near the patients’ toilets in a field hospital. It was not a special surprise. Coronavirus receptors exist not only in the airways, but also in the digestive tract, where cells can become infected and transfer the virus to fecal material. Research conducted by the virologist Ke Lan was published only in the local scientific newspaper and has not yet been reviewed or confirmed by other scholars.

Medical workers need special protection

Researchers at the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases have investigated how coronavirus can behave in the air under strictly controlled laboratory conditions. Virologist Vincent Munster used a nebulizer, a device that produced an aerosol from a fluid containing coronavirus samples. The nebulizer does not simulate coughing or sneezing, but it can be considered that it resembles what happens during such medical procedures as intubation. It turned out that in these artificially created conditions, the live virus spray lasted up to three hours.

This is proof that it is necessary to provide a high level of personal protection to healthcare professionals, especially when performing procedures such as intubation, because it is then that the most likely formation of coronavirus aerosols.

That is why the World Health Organization (WHO) strictly recommends the use of masks, helmets, aprons and other extensive protection for medical workers dealing with COVID-19 patients.

Are elevators safe?

The air in the elevators does not threaten us. However, the virus may be on e.g. buttons and other surfaces. Therefore, we must be extremely careful and immediately after disinfecting hands thoroughly.

(source: Gazeta Wyborcza, Poland’s premier daily)


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