Researchers have detected tiny airborne particles containing RNA from SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, both inside and outside of rooms in which infected people were self-isolating at home.

This finding suggests that airborne transmission beyond the isolation rooms in homes may pose a risk of infection to other home occupants.

The study, in Annals of the American Thoracic Society, is the first report of household air contamination with SARS-CoV2 RNA under typical daily living conditions when a household member is infected. Airborne transmission in crowded living conditions may be one reason for higher rates of COVID-19 infection among people with lower incomes.

“Risk of infection from larger respiratory droplets that rapidly settle onto surfaces, typically within two meters of the source, can be reduced by hand-washing, social distancing, and face masks, but the tiny respiratory particles that stay suspended in air for hours, require air filtration, ventilation, or better masks for prevention,” says lead author Howard Kipen, a professor at Rutgers School of Public Health and director of Clinical Research and Occupational Medicine at the Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute.

The researchers collected air samples from 11 homes in rooms where a newly infected person was self-isolating, as well as in an adjacent common room to test for the presence of three SARS-CoV-2-specific genes in airborne particles.

They found positive air samples for at least one of three virus genes in six of the 11 isolation rooms and in six of the nine common rooms. Seven of these nine homes reported no other cases in the home.

To better understand how the virus spreads in the home, researchers asked participants to record their time in the isolation room and the common room.

Read the full article about self-isolation during COVID-19 by Patti Verbanas at Futurity.