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COVID-19 can get to you without coming into contact with infected, study warns

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Jiya Saini
Jiya Saini is a Journalist and Writer at Revyuh.com. She has been working with us since January 2018. After studying at Jamia Millia University, she is fascinated by smart lifestyle and smart living. She covers technology, games, sports and smart living, as well as good experience in press relations. She is also a freelance trainer for macOS and iOS, and In the past, she has worked with various online news magazines in India and Singapore. Email: jiya (at) revyuh (dot) com

Study shows how easy it is to get infected without coming into contact with COVID-19 patients

Researchers in New Zealand attempted to solve the puzzle of how one individual with the virus infected three people without coming into contact with them at all. Genetic tests and surveillance cameras helped them in reaching this intriguing conclusion.

We’ve been dealing with this pandemic for almost two years, so it’s difficult to be surprised. But sometimes one short narrative reveals this virus’s craziness. Following a single confirmed case, New Zealand implemented comprehensive measures against the virus, including closing the skies to air travel, isolating hotels, and shutting down the entire country.

Someone who traveled in and was subsequently isolated in a hotel for monitoring infected three additional travelers in the same hotel despite no interaction between them. According to epidemiological research, the infection appears to have happened on both sides of the room corridor. The doors to the rooms were only open for a few seconds, allowing air to leak from the sick person’s chamber to other rooms where individuals were isolated.

According to the researchers who investigated this case, this is further proof of the coronavirus’s high infection rate, as well as proof of the vaccine’s effectiveness, as one vaccinated isolator who stayed in the same room with three unvaccinated people who had been infected for several weeks was never found positive for the virus.

What happened, exactly?

All of these individuals arrived in New Zealand in July, at the peak of the Delta strain’s morbidity wave, which was the most contagious strain until Omicron. When one person from the Philippines arrived, he was found to be positive and was taken to a government-run isolation facility.

Five people from the United Arab Emirates stayed at the same hotel; one of them tested positive. The five shared a room with the Filipino across the hall. The door was only unlocked for PCR tests and food delivery, and no one was allowed to leave their chambers.

The doors of the many other rooms were not to be opened at the same time, as per the hotel’s rules.

However, Andrew Fox Lewis and colleagues from the Auckland Health Council, who studied this unusual incidence of infection, discovered that it did happen.

During the period of infection of patient A, video from CCTV cameras revealed four times when the doors of the two rooms were opened at the same time for short durations of time.

Each of these simultaneous door openings lasted only a fraction of a second. Three more people became infected out of the five people from the Emirates (one of them tested positive upon arrival at the hotel).

Genetic testing of their samples, on the other hand, proved that their roommate was not the source of the virus. The virus’s genetic fingerprint was identified in the UAE, and it matched that of the Filipino across the hall.

After looking at all the materials and documentation, researchers decided that airborne infection, which spread the virus from one side of the corridor to the other, was the most likely cause.

“These findings are of global importance for the intervention and prevention of the virus and for public health,” say the authors of the study.

“We checked and found that patient A didn’t leave his room at any stage while he was contagious. He was allowed to leave his room for exercise only after he was no longer contagious – from July 28 onwards (by this time patients B and C were already positive for coronavirus),” the researchers wrote.

It’s probable that when the Emirates tourists’ door was open for a few seconds, patient A discharged infectious virus particles into the air space in the hallway, and the infected air infiltrated their room.

It should be emphasized that health authorities in New Zealand considered this situation as well and attempted to prevent it by installing air purifiers in the hotel as well as special fans that were supposed to pump the air out of the hallway. However, in the situation of a simultaneous door opening, these were probably ineffective.

“The ventilation system was separated from room to room, and each room had an exterior window that occupants could open independently and freely to let in fresh air,” the researchers noted.

They concluded that their findings supported the theory that virus particles transported in the air from room A migrated and crossed the corridor into room BCDEF during short periods of time when the doors of the two rooms were opened simultaneously.

Who didn’t get infected?

Only one individual who had returned from the UAE had not been infected because he had been vaccinated. PCR tests revealed that the vaccinated man was never affected, despite sharing a room with four other afflicted people. On July 14, 18, 21, 27, 29, and 31, as well as August 14, 16, and 23, tests were conducted. He tested negative for coronavirus in all of them, and he’s had two doses of the Pfizer vaccination. None of his traveling companions had been immunized.

This isn’t the first time coronavirus has been found in different rooms on opposite sides of a corridor. Researchers from Hong Kong revealed in early December 2021 that a vaccinated patient sick with the Omicron strain and sleeping in isolation at a hotel infected someone staying across the hall, despite the fact that both had been vaccinated twice.

Security cameras in the hallway also revealed that they did not exit their rooms or interact with one another or others. Every three days, the doors to their rooms were opened for very brief periods of time to retrieve food trays left outside and to conduct PCR tests.

Similarly, despite arriving on various days and from different countries, genetic analyses indicated that the virus strains in their samples were nearly identical.

The spread of virus-borne virus particles from room to room enables people to become infected with the coronavirus, according to epidemiological researchers in Hong Kong who arrived at the same conclusion as those in New Zealand.

Image Credit: Getty

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