This release was originally released by the University of Nebraska Medical Center here.
Dr. Joshua Santarpia, NSRI Research Director for CWMD programs and co-author of study: "Transmission potential of SARS-CoV-2 in viral shedding observed at the University of Nebraska Medical Center."
Scientists from the University of Nebraska Medicine and Nebraska Medicine spoke Sunday on a recently published study, describing patterns of transmission in COVID-19. The study did provide additional evidence of SARS-CoV-2 environmental contamination in COVID-19 patient care areas, finding levels of genetic material from the COVID-19 virus contamination on commonly used surfaces, in the air of rooms of COVID-19 patients and in hallways outside of rooms.
"We are being very careful in the care of patients with COVID-19 or patients suspected to have COVID-19, and the study doesn't change very much in the precautions that people should take," said Mark Rupp, M.D., chief of the UNMC Division of Infectious Diseases.
Dr. Rupp said that there was widespread contamination within the patient care environment and evidence of the genetic material from the virus could be recovered in some air samples, confirming the importance of disinfecting the patient-care environment, further adding that COVID-19 transmission seems to be much like influenza and not like airborne diseases such as chicken pox or measles. He added that influenza virus can also sometimes be found in the air in patient rooms particularly associated with aerosol generating procedures -- such as intubation or bronchoscopy.
"It doesn't appear to spread like classic, airborne-spread viruses," he said. "We don't have evidence at this point that COVID-19 would spread in such a fashion, so we need to continue to emphasize the known methods of transmission and the ways to combat such transmission. We are caring for patients known or suspected to have COVID-19 with special precautions, and we recently introduced universal mask use for all personnel in patient care areas. "
John Lowe, Ph.D., co-author of the study and vice chancellor for Interprofessional Health Security Training and Education, said the study was performed to investigate how the virus was spread so as to protect health care workers.
"We were not incredibly surprised by any of the results we found," he said. "We did confirm the presence of the genetic material from the virus throughout the environment on what we refer to as high-touch surfaces or surfaces of interest -- toilets, cell phones, personal items, countertops, doorknobs.
"We also did identify a number of samples that detected the virus genes in the air, which confirmed for us the value in prioritizing respiratory protection when possible and prioritizing negative-pressure environments to provide direct patient care to these individuals."
"Our team was already taking precautions with the initial patients we cared for," said James Lawler, M.D., co-author of the report, an infectious diseases expert and a director of the Global Center for Health Security at UNMC. "This report reinforces our suspicions. It's why we have maintained COVID patients in well-equipped rooms and will continue to make efforts to do so -- even with an increase in the number of patients. Our health care workers providing care will be equipped with the appropriate level of personal protective equipment. Obviously, more research is required to be able to fully characterize environmental risk."
"Studies like these are needed to understand proper precautions for health care workers, first responders and others who care for the ill and are needed to combat this pandemic," said Joshua Santarpia, Ph.D., co-author of the report, associate professor of pathology and microbiology at UNMC and research director for Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction at the National Strategic Research Institute. "This ongoing work will continue to improve our understanding of SARS-CoV-2 transmission and help identify ways to improve safety in the care of patients with this disease.