During the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, health officials warned that coronavirus could be everywhere. According to Mayo Clinic, it is possible to catch influenza (flu) or cold virus after touching inanimate objects or surfaces that an infected person has sneezed or coughed on. They clarified that close contact with infected individuals, like a handshake or breathing in droplets, is the most common way.
Microbiologist Emmanuel Goldman explains that, despite public health guidance suggesting surfaces be disinfected, the COVID-19 infection is not transmitted through inanimate objects and surfaces. Also, the flu virus and common cold transmission remain exclusively airborne.
Overlooked Path of COVID-19
Goldman is a professor of microbiology at the Rutgers Bew Jersey Medical School and one of the scientists to challenge the notion of the overzealous disinfection of surfaces, which has become counterproductive for public health, Futurity reported. Even the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) agreed with Professor Goldman.
He sounded the alarm again in his recent study “Sars Wars: The Aerosols Versus the Fomites” published in Frontiers in Infectious Diseases and Microbiology that further discussed for a science-based path for the transmission of the virus. He will be presenting his findings in December in New York during a respiratory disease conference.
He added that masks and vaccinations help reduce the transmission of the virus, which is a more obvious route that was being ignored. So when they tried looking for a safe method of killing viruses, they realized they already have one.
When asked why this was overlooked, he explained that scientists are very careful that they do not want to put out a recommendation that may cause harm.
Are Fomites a Significant Way of Viral Transmission?
According to Medical Xpress, inanimate surfaces and objects are what microbiologists call “fomites.” For decades, experts have considered fomites as a significant mode of transmission of respiratory viruses. But the new study says otherwise so what was the false assessment based on?
It was based on previous laboratory experiments that assessed how long will a certain type of virus survives out of the respiratory tract and on the surfaces or inanimate objects. However, the experiments would use more than the regular amount that a person releases when coughing or sneezing in real life.
That means the experiment would have more half-lives to go through before they reach a point where they will no longer be detected or when viable viruses are left.
Another problem is that these experiments did not look at infectability but only at the presence of genetic material, especially RNA. The problem now is that RNA survives well on fomites even if it cannot infect.
Can Flu Season Be Stopped By Washing Hands Regularly?
Professor Goldman noted that the rate of influenza infection went down when everybody was wearing facemasks during the first year of 2020, Medical Xpress reported. But that would not happen if influenza can be transmitted through fomites.
Respiratory diseases are not the only diseases in the world as there are other viral and bacterial diseases that people can pick up from surfaces. It only means that the public should not stop washing their hands to prevent infections other than the flu.