The Importance of COVID Exposure Research
When COVID first emerged in January of 2019, no one really knew what we were dealing with, and it took several months before we learned anything useful. At first, all we really knew was that there was a new kind of viral pneumonia in Wuhan, China, that was putting record numbers of otherwise healthy people in hospital.
By the end of January in 2019, the COVID genome had been sequenced. Shortly after that, many research labs around the world started working on creating a vaccine. By building on existing mRNA vaccine technology, and simply adapting it to the spike protein, they were able to get viable vaccines ready for testing in record time.
Instead of the decades it usually takes to complete a new vaccine, we had several within about a year. Many people thought the pandemic would end shortly thereafter. But, for various reasons, that has not happened. So instead of concentrating on eradicating COVID, we have to learn to live with it. That means taking steps to protect ourselves, and that means we have to understand how, where and why exposure happens.
What Is COVID Exposure?
COVID exposure, as the name suggests, means when a healthy, uninfected person comes into contact with the virus. Studies, research and real world observations have shown that early assumptions about the transmission of COVID are not correct.
In fact, where it was initially widely assumed that COVID spread by droplet transmission, we now know that it is at least partly transmitted through airborne means. In fact, there are several research study results that indicate that aerosols are the primary means of transmission for the SARS-C0V-2 virus – or the virus that causes COVID.
More research study teams have concluded that it takes as little as 10 particles of the virus to infect someone – which, depending on their vaccination status and underlying health, could lead to serious consequences.
What Do COVID Exposure Studies Teach Us?
Because COVID is a new or so called “novel” virus, the science of how it is spread and what it does is constantly changing. Early on in the pandemic, when we still thought it was primarily droplet transmitted, some public health experts decided that masks were not necessary.
As the evidence of airborne transmission grew, that advice changed. This is a common scientific practice. When the knowledge and evidence changes, the mitigation measures change.
Research studies have also told us that things like excessive cleaning and plexiglass screens are largely useless, because COVID virus particles can simply “float” around or over them.
As we learn more about how COVID is transmitted, and what kind of factors lead to potentially dangerous exposure, we can make better public health and personal choices. So, for instance, we can lose the disinfectant wipes for every surface, and use better masks.
Investigating where COVID is transmitted, and how people are exposed to the virus lets us make better choices. Because when we know how people are exposed and infected, we can break the chains of transmission.