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Coronavirus, Wuhan virus, whatchamacallit… is now officially COVID-19, but is it airborne?

By February 12, 2020Current

TL;DR -“CO” for “corona”, “VI” for “virus”, “D” for “disease”, “19” for the year. And evidence shows it’s not airborne. 

Dr Tedros, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) announced the official name yesterday (11 Feb),

“We now have a name for the #2019nCoV disease: COVID-19.”

“I’ll spell it: C-O-V-I-D hyphen one nine – COVID-19”

https://twitter.com/WHO/status/1227248333871173632

Why COVID-19?

  • Well, the “CO” stands for “corona”
  • “VI” for “virus”
  • “D” for “disease”
  • “19” was for the year, since outbreak was first identified on Dec 31.

No reference of geographical location in new name

WHO had deliberately avoided references to a specific geographical location to prevent stigmatisation. Yea, keep calling it Wuhan virus may result in a situation where people just avoid people from Wuhan like plague even if they’re perfectly well and healthy.

The same explanation goes for not naming it with reference to any group of people or nationality.

No reference of animal species in new name

Right… since it is widely thought that bats started it all with this. But nope, that’s confusing and technically not quite right too. For instance, H1N1 was “swine flu”. Back then, in 2009, this had a huge impact on the sales of pork even though the disease was spread by people and not really by pigs.

Hehe, no stigmatisation of humans, and likewise, no stigmatistion of animals.

So, there you have it, the what and the why of the new, official name.

COVID-19.

No clue on mode of transmission in new name

Now its new name of COVID-19 does not shed additional light on the mode of transmission. Over the past few days, there have been a few viral articles suggesting airborne transmission.

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China: Confirmed transmission routes include aerosol transmission.

In case you were living under a rock or still busy panic-buying since the weekend, yes, there were a few articles that reported off a China Daily article where one Shanghai official, Zeng Qun, deputy head of the Shanghai Civil Affairs Bureau, said ,

“Confirmed transmission routes of the novel coronavirus include direct transmission, contact transmission and aerosol transmission.”

“Aerosol transmission refers to the mixing of the virus with droplets in the air to form aerosols, which causes infection after inhalation, according to medical experts.”

That sent some people into a frenzy and they started forwarding articles and messages that the virus is airborne.

Yes, because one Shanghai official said so.

Also China: No hard proof of aerosol transmission.

Anyway, soon after this deputy head of the Shanghai Civil Affairs Bureau made that claim, China’s own medical expert surfaced within 24 hours to say no, there is no hard proof of aerosol transmission.

This medical expert is Feng Luzhao, a researcher with the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and he had said that “aerosol transmission refers to the mixing of the virus with droplets in the air to form aerosols, which can float for long distance and cause infection after inhalation.”

Singapore experts: Evidence currently points to this virus being droplet-spread. It is not airborne.

Locally, medical experts and doctors in Singapore also stressed that there is no clear evidence that the virus is airborne.

Dr Chia Shi-Lu, chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Health,  told the local media, “If the virus is airborne, the results would be disastrous by now.”

“Current evidence shows that the virus is airborne is not convincing.”

Infectious diseases expert, Dr Leong Hoe Name, also opined that the virus spreads primarily by respiratory droplets. This means it flies out with our spit when we talk exuberantly, it comes out with a sneeze, but it’s certainly not in the air.

Infectious diseases physician, Dr Leong Hoe Nam, on what we need to know about 2019-Coronavirus

 

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Gabrielle Teo

Author Gabrielle Teo

I read lots, and I also spend an indecent amount of time trying to get my mostly unpopular opinions published. Oh, I argue a lot with fellow Singaporeans who complain incessantly about Singapore too.

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