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Zeynep Tufekci: ‘Why Aren’t We Talking More About Ventilation?’

Zeynep Tufekci, writing a few weeks ago for The Atlantic:

There are also different kinds of “airborne” transmission — the term can sound scarier than reality and can become the basis for unnecessary scaremongering. For example, some airborne diseases, such as measles, will definitely spread to almost every corner of a house and can be expected to infect about 90 percent of susceptible people in the household. In the virus-panic movie Outbreak, when Dustin Hoffman’s character exclaims, “It’s airborne!” about Motaba, the film’s fictional virus, he means that it will spread to every corner of the hospital through the vents. But not all airborne diseases are super-contagious (more on that in a bit), and, for the most part, the coronavirus does not behave like a super-infectious pathogen.

In multiple studies, researchers have found that COVID-19’s secondary attack rate, the proportion of susceptible people that one sick person will infect in a circumscribed setting, such as a household or dormitory, can be as low as 10 to 20 percent. In fact, many experts I spoke with remarked that COVID-19 was less contagious than many other pathogens, except when it seemed to occasionally go wild in super-spreader events, infecting large numbers of people at once, across distances much greater than the droplet range of three to six feet. Those who argue that COVID-19 can spread through aerosol routes point to the prevalence and conditions of these super-spreader events as one of the most important pieces of evidence for airborne transmission.

Tufekci, you will recall, spearheaded efforts to get public health officials and agencies in the U.S. to recommend face masks back in March.

Also at The Atlantic, and also outstanding:

Wednesday, 26 August 2020