CDC takes down warning on airborne spread of Covid-19 beyond 6 feet, says update was posted 'in error'

'A draft version of proposed changes to these recommendations was posted in error to the agency’s official website,' the CDC said


                            CDC takes down warning on airborne spread of Covid-19 beyond 6 feet, says update was posted 'in error'
(Getty Images)

The potential for Covid-19 to spread through airborne transmission has been a matter of much debate among scientists and public health experts. The CDC, on Friday, updated its Covid-19 guidance and said the virus could spread through airborne particles that can remain suspended in the air and travel beyond six feet. The agency’s website also recommended using air purifiers to reduce airborne germs indoors to avoid the disease from spreading. However, the CDC now has withdrawn the guidelines, and on Monday said it had posted the guidance "in error" and will be updating its recommendations soon. “A draft version of proposed changes to these recommendations was posted in error to the agency’s official website,” the CDC said.

The Friday update on “how Covid-19 spreads” said that the coronavirus may spread through droplets and airborne particles that are formed when an infected person coughs, sneezes, sings, talks, or breathes. “There is growing evidence that droplets and airborne particles can remain suspended in the air and be breathed in by others, and travel distances beyond 6 feet (for example, during choir practice, in restaurants, or fitness classes). In general, indoor environments without good ventilation increase this risk,” the agency said in the withdrawn guidance.

Presently, the CDC says the coronavirus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person, between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet), through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks.

The Friday statement said that Covid-19 most commonly spreads between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet) but added that the virus can spread “through respiratory droplets or small particles, such as those in aerosols,” produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, sings, talks, or breathes.

“These particles can be inhaled into the nose, mouth, airways, and lungs and cause infection. This is thought to be the main way the virus spreads,” the agency explained. It added, “Droplets can also land on surfaces and objects and be transferred by touch. A person may get Covid-19 by touching the surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or eyes. Spread from touching surfaces is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.”

The CDC emphasized that how easily a virus spread from person to person could vary and that airborne viruses, including Covid-19, were among the most contagious and easily spread. “Some viruses are highly contagious, like measles, while other viruses do not spread as easily. The virus that causes Covid-19 appears to spread more efficiently than influenza, but not as efficiently as measles, which is highly contagious. In general, the more closely a person with Covid-19 interacts with others and the longer that interaction, the higher the risk of Covid-19 spread,” read the page.

According to experts, in general, indoor environments without good ventilation increase the risk of Covid-19 transmission. (Getty Images)

Stating that the best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus, health experts recommend that people should stay at least 6 feet away from others, whenever possible as this is “very important” in preventing the spread of Covid-19.

“Pandemics can be stressful. During times of increased physical distancing, it is still important to maintain social connections and care for your mental health. Cover your mouth and nose with a mask when around others. Masks should not replace other prevention measures. Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol,” suggests the CDC. 

In July, over 200 scientists had written an open letter, urging the World Health Organization (WHO) to recognize and acknowledge the role of the airborne spread of Covid-19. Subsequently, the WHO issued a scientific brief that said that the airborne spread of Covid-19 may be possible in indoor settings but called for more evidence. It suggests that under some circumstances, the airborne transmission may occur -- such as when aerosol-generating procedures are conducted in healthcare settings or potentially, in indoor crowded poorly ventilated settings elsewhere. The WHO’s July guidance explains that there have been reported outbreaks of coronavirus in some closed settings, such as restaurants, nightclubs, places of worship, or places of work where people maybe shouting, talking, or singing. In these outbreaks, aerosol transmission, particularly in these indoor locations where there are crowded and inadequately ventilated spaces where infected persons spend long periods with others, cannot be ruled out, says the agency. 

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