Chinese Officials Warn of Aerosol Infection as Coronavirus Continues to Spread

Chinese health officials have identified aerosol as one of the transmission routes for the deadly novel coronavirus that has infected at least tens of thousands and stirred concern worldwide, according to a Shanghai press conference on Saturday.

Aerosol transmission occurs when one inhales small droplets in the air containing the virus. Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), measles, and H5N1 avian influenza are capable of spreading through aerosols, which can stay in the air for an extended period of time.

The other two major transmission routes for the virus include direct contact—breathing in droplets from an infected person who sneezes and coughs at close range—and contact transmission, meaning a person can be infected by touching objects contaminated with droplets carrying the virus, and then touching the membranes of his mouth, nose, or eyes without washing their hands.

A commuter wearing a face mask rides a metro train in Tokyo on Feb. 8, 2020. (Charly Triballeau/AFP via Getty Images)

Depending on the environment, current scientific data suggests the coronavirus can survive on surfaces for several hours to up to five days, Jiang Rongmeng, an expert from Chinas top health oversight agency, the National Health Commission (NHC), said in a recent press conference.

The findings came after Guangdong authorities discovered nucleic acid of the new virus on the doorknob of a patients home less than a week earlier.

A medical staff member getting lunch boxes for patients through a window in an isolation ward at a hospital in Wuhan in Chinas central Hubei province, during the virus outbreak in the city, on Jan. 30, 2020. (STR/AFP via Getty Images)

A number of Chinese cities, including the outbreak epicenter of Wuhan in Hubei Province; Xian in Shaanxi; Nanyang, Xuchang, and Kaifeng in Henan; Xingtai in Hebei; Jiujiang in Guangdong, have deployed mist cannon trucks and street cleaning trucks to spray disinfectants on the streets in an effort to eliminate the virus from public spaces.

Shenzhen and Kunming in southern China were among the latest two to use drones for the disinfectant operation.

Local residents fills a drone with disinfectant before spray at a village in Pingdingshan, in Chinas central Henan province on Jan. 31, 2020, during the virus outbreak in Hubeis city of Wuhan. (STR/AFP via Getty Images)

Zeng Qun, vice director for the Shanghai Civil Affairs Bureau, asked the public to cancel all social gatherings, open windows to ensure ventilation indoors, and regularly disinfect their homes. Zeng named door handles, chairs, and toilet seat cushions as key areas that are susceptible to contamination and suggested using 75 percent ethanol solution or chlorine solution for sanitizing measures.

In a recent poll on popular messaging platform WeChat, which drew 75,000 participants, around 62 percent of them indicated that they have not taken an elevator for more than a week, worrying that they could contract the virus by contacting the doorknob. For those who still rode the elevator, many chose to bring a pen, a toothpick, or a napkin, or wear gloves to avoid any direct contact.

Officials have also cautioned the family members of those infected to wear masks and keep a distance of at least one meter (3.2 ft) as well as clean their hands immediately after touching anything exposed to the patient.