Experts Say Coronavirus May Spread Through Talking And Breathing

by Christina Marfice
Group of friends walking together during virus epidemic

Scientists now think the coronavirus can spread through talking or even just breathing, not only through coughs and sneezes

As the coronavirus continues to spread, we’re still learning more about it every day. And while the assumption has been that it’s similar to other respiratory diseases that spread mainly through aerosolized particles that are expelled when sick people cough or sneeze, research is now indicating it may be possible to spread the disease by talking or even simply breathing.

Combined with what we know about the many people who carry and spread COVID-19 asymptomatically, this news should make everyone take their social distancing very seriously.

“While the current [coronavirus] specific research is limited, the results of available studies are consistent with aerosolization of virus from normal breathing,” Dr. Harvey Fineberg, chairman of a committee with the National Academy of Sciences and former dean of the Harvard School of Public Health, wrote in a letter to the White House. Dr. Fineberg also told CNN that because of this, he plans to start wearing a mask when he goes out on errands, like to the grocery store, to help protect himself and others from coronavirus spread.

“I’m not going to wear a surgical mask, because clinicians need those,” Feinberg said. “But I have a nice western-style bandana I might wear. Or I have a balaclava. I have some pretty nice options.”

“This letter responds to your question concerning the possibility that [coronavirus] could be spread by conversation, in addition to sneeze/cough-induced droplets,” the letter reads. “Currently available research supports the possibility that [coronavirus] could be spread via bioaerosols generated directly by patients’ exhalation.”

This is in line with rumors that the White House and the CDC plan to reverse on their previous guidance, and start encouraging Americans to wear cloth masks when they go out in public, whether they’re sick or not. Previously, the advice was to only wear a mask if you had symptoms of illness. But as we learn more about how easily the coronavirus spreads, even if you show no symptoms of illness, that guidance may need to be updated to keep more people safe from the disease.

In addition to that, the CDC still recommends that people who don’t live in the same household stay six feet away from one another at all times. This new research sheds more light on why maintaining that distance is so necessary.

Information about COVID-19 is rapidly changing, and Scary Mommy is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. With news being updated so frequently, some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For this reason, we are encouraging readers to use online resources from local public health departments, the Centers for Disease Control, and the World Health Organization to remain as informed as possible.