Research has shown the deadly COVID-19 predominantly spreads through respiratory droplets when a person coughs or sneezes. However, researchers at the Academy of Military Medical Sciences in Beijing, China have found there may be another way coronavirus is transmitted.
The team took swab samples from 39 coronavirus patients at Huoshenshan Hospital in Wuhan, the Chinese province believed to have been the original epicentre of COVID-19.
They also took samples from the hospital floors, air, bins, handrails, patient masks, medical equipment and staff shoes.
The researchers found at least half of the samples taken from the shoes of ICU staff tested positive for coronavirus, as did sample from the floor.
The team also discovered a 100 percent rate of positivity from swabs from the floor in the hospital’s pharmacy where there were no patients, suggesting medical staff likely tracked coronavirus on their shoes.
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The researchers said: “Half of the samples from the soles of the ICU medical staff shoes tested positive.
“Therefore, the soles of medical staff shoes might function as carriers.”
In the study led by Zhen-Dong Guo, the researchers added: “The rate of positivity was relatively high for floor swab samples, perhaps because of gravity and air flow causing most virus droplets to float to the ground.
“In addition, as medical staff walk around the ward, the virus can be tracked all over the floor, as indicated by the 100 percent rate of positivity from the floor in the pharmacy, where there were no patients.”
Based on the alarming discovery, medical staff are being urged to wash their shoes when moving around hospitals.
The researchers said: “We highly recommend that persons disinfect shoe soles before walking out of wards containing COVID-19 patients.”
The news comes after a Danish professor suggested coronavirus may also have an airborne component.
Speaking to Sky News on Monday, Hans Kolmos revealed how he had a nasty suspicion COVID-19 could travel longer distances through air than previously thought.
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Professor Kolmos replied: “We think that it is passed on by contact but I have a nasty suspicion there could be an airborne element in this disease.
“We saw it with SARS years back. We still think it is mainly through contact and to be within a two metres distance of somebody that is infected.”
When pushed further on whether people could catch COVID-19 from the air, the clinical biologist
“Well it is not a truly airborne virus but there are indications that you may pass on the virus over longer distances than two metres if you are indoors.
“This is my concern right now.”
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