Asia-Pacific

Conflicting advice after Chinese official reportedly claims coronavirus is 'airborne'

Source: Getty images

Despite China's reported claims, Australia's National Critical Care and Response Centre Medical Director Professor Dianne Stephens has moved to squash the airborne theory.

A Chinese official has reportedly confirmed the coronavirus can be passed on through aerosol transmission, potentially meaning the virus can travel long distances and be and infect those who breathe it in.

It comes as the number of confirmed cases worldwide passes 37,500, with the death toll in China reaching 812. Those latest figures make coronavirus more deadly than the 2002-2003 SARS epidemic, which killed 774 people.

coronavirus
Death toll from the coronavirus in China, passes Sars outbreak.
Xinhua

Authorities previously believed the coronavirus could only be passed on through two ways; direct or contact transmission.

Direct transmission occurs when an individual breathes in the air of an infected patient, while contact transmission requires one to touch an object carrying the virus and then touch their own mouth, nose or eyes.

But The China Daily has reported Shanghai Civil Affairs Bureau deputy head Zeng Qun as confirming the coronavirus can be spread through the air.

A young girl holds a box of N95 masks at a shopping mall in Singapore.
A young girl holds a box of N95 masks at a shopping mall in Singapore.
AAP

"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," Mr Qun reportedly said at a weekend briefing.

"As such, we have called on the public to raise their awareness of the prevention and control of the disease caused by family gatherings."

The Chinese government is urging citizens to stay at home, avoid social gatherings, keep windows open and disinfect door handles, dining tables and toilet seats.

The Manigurr-ma accommod­ation village outside Darwin, where coronavirus evacuees are to be quarantined
The Manigurr-ma accommod­ation village outside Darwin, where coronavirus evacuees are to be quarantined
Aneeta Bhole/SBS News

Despite China's reported claims, Australia's National Critical Care and Response Centre Medical Director Professor Dianne Stephens has moved to squash the airborne theory.

"(Coronavirus) is droplet spread, if I cough on you and I have the coronavirus, then you are at risk. If I have a mask on and you do, it prevents that from happening," she said Monday.

The conflicting transmission report comes just a day after a plane carrying 266 Australian evacuees from Chinese city of Wuhan landed in the Northern Territory, with the group now being quarantined in the Manigurr Ma village, 30km from Darwin.

Australia’s Chief Medical Officer Professor Brendan Murphy confirmed all passengers were physically well and that appropriate steps were being taken to ensure everyone remained safe.

“In the Darwin facility, they'll go to the Darwin Hospital where they'll be tested and, if they are negative, that's good, if they're positive, they'll be properly treated there,” he said.

Chief Medical Officer Professor Brendan Murphy
Chief Medical Officer Professor Brendan Murphy
AAP

There have been 15 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Australia; five in Queensland, four each in New South Wales and Victoria, as well as two in South Australia.

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