CDC releases, withdraws updated language on SARS-CoV-2 spread

Sept. 22, 2020

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) briefly released – and then withdrew – changes in the agency’s description about the way in which SARS-CoV-2 spreads.

In updated language released late last week, the CDC said SARS-CoV-2 could be spread through airborne transmission. Before then, the agency had maintained that the primary mode of transmission was through respiratory droplets spread during close (less than six feet) person-to-person contact.

But in a message posted hastily this week, the CDC said, “A draft version of proposed changes to these recommendations was posted in error to the agency’s official website. CDC is currently updating its recommendations regarding airborne transmission of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19). Once this process has been completed, the update language will be posted.”

In July, the World Health Organization (WHO) had updated its scientific information about how SARS-CoV-2 is spread to include airborne transmission, which the WHO described as “droplet nuclei” or aerosols “that remain infectious when suspended in air over long distances and time.” This type of transmission concerns public health officials because it may mean that aerosols containing SARS-CoV-2 can spread through poor indoor ventilation systems, the WHO said.

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