Today, The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) published a brief correspondence by MCB faculty member Matthew Meselson, who is an expert on bioweapons and aerosol dispersal of biological agents.
In recent weeks diverse and sometimes contradictory views have appeared in the media regarding the hazard of infection by corona virus SARS-CoV-2 posed by inhalation of airborne particles exhaled by infected persons. This may be seen, for example, in a recent article in the New York Times.
The NEJM asked Meselson to submit a letter about the role of exhaled droplets and exhaled aerosols in the transmission of the virus. “I think they asked me because of the current confusion about the matter and because they perhaps knew that I had once been interested in the subject of aerosol transmission of pathogens and protection against biological aerosols as, for example, our study of the 1979 outbreak of anthrax (PDF) in the Soviet city of Sverdlovsk,” Meselson says.
Although there is still much uncertainty about how far SARS-CoV-2 can travel in the open or linger in enclosed spaces and remain infectious, Meselson writes that people should continue taking precautions such as wearing appropriate masks and ventilating confined indoor spaces where infected persons may be or may recently have been.