Health workers more at risk of coronavirus

Friday March 27 2020

Health workers in Meru seek divine intervention on March 21, 2020 as they battle coronavirus. PHOTO | CHARLES WANYORO | NATION MEDIA GROUP


The World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned that health workers are at a high risk of inhaling droplets of the new coronavirus during medical procedures.

While WHO has insisted that the Covid-19 causing virus is not airborne, it has issued a warning to medical staff that the highly contagious pathogen can remain in the air around health facilities.

So rapid and aggressive has the spread of Covid-19 been that scientists have been insisting on maintaining a safe distance and limiting human interaction.

Tracking the coronavirus

Already, people have been found to be infected through droplets that are sneezed or coughed out by infected people.

According to scientists, a single cough can produce up to 3,000 droplets, while a sneeze can produce as many as 10,000.



But the virus, Sars-CoV-2, which causes Covid-19, has been found to also lurk in the hospital environment, prompting the WHO to caution medical staff caring for patients.

A medical microbiologist, Dr Marriane Mureithi, said: “It is not really airborne because it needs to travel inside a droplet, which can live for three days on some surfaces, such as plastic and steel, depending on how long it takes for the droplet to dry and eventually be deactivated.”

She added that survival in the air will depend on humidity, temperature, among other things.

“Based on the information received so far and on our experience with other coronaviruses, Covid-19 appears to spread mostly through respiratory droplets (for instance produced when a sick person coughs) and close contact.

“Droplets are too large to be airborne for long periods of time, and quickly settle out of air. This is why WHO recommends everyone to maintain hand and respiratory hygiene,” said Collins Boakye-Agyemang, the communications adviser at WHO, regional office for Africa when the Nation sought clarification.

Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, an emerging disease expert at WHO, said last week that the virus can remain in the air for three hours.

Mr Boakye-Agyemang said Dr Van Kerkhove’s statement was meant to guide healthcare providers when they have to use procedures that concentrate the virus particles, such as using ventilators, to help a patient breath, exposing the medical provider to the virus.