SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -- The World Health Organization (WHO) issued new guidance on the coronavirus and how it spreads...

On Thursday, WHO acknowledged crowded inside spaces could be a place where the virus could live in the air for hours, but a local doctor Western Mass News spoke to says the majority of the time that's not the case.

The latest guidance released on Thursday, July 9 from the WHO, suggests the coronavirus may be able to spread through airborne particles in tight indoor spaces.

"COVID-19 falls much more toward the larger respiratory droplets than it does toward the airborne side of things," said Baystate Medical Center's infectious disease specialist Doctor Amanda Westlake.

Western Mass News spoke with infectious disease specialist Dr. Amanda Westlake from Baystate Medical Center.

"We know SARS-CO-V-2 is spread by infectious particles emitted by the nose or the mouth of an infectious person," Westlake explained.

She said, in most cases, the virus is spread when coughing sneezing or even talking...

"Those particles land in the eyes, nose, or mouth of a susceptible person, who is standing nearby," Westlake said.

It then lands on the ground, within a six-foot radius, now the WHO said the virus can be airborne.

"Airborne particles are smaller than 5 micrometers, so they're lighter than air, they can be suspended in ambient air, so they don't fall to the ground," Westlake explained.

Westlake told us the virus is mainly spread through droplets...similar to the flu.

"Which means you have to come into face-to-face contact with people to be infected," Westlake noted.

When compared to a virus spread airborne like measles, data showing COVID-19 is not as infectious.

"The typical person with COVID-19 infects 1 to 3 other people, where the typical person with measles infects 10 to 20 other people," Westlake explained.

In a household, Westlake said you have a 20 percent chance of getting infected if living with someone diagnosed with COVID-19.

"Whereas with measles, it is like 80 to 90 percent," Westlake noted.

While there are situations where COVID-19 can be transmitted airborne, she also said it's rare and aerosol transmission is more likely to happen indoors as opposed to outdoor environments, where there is more airflow.

"An outdoor environment effectively nullifies airborne transmission," she said. "Also, because sunlight and UV kill SARS-CO-V-2."

Westlake said the new guidance shouldn't change how people conduct their everyday lives, wear a cloth face covering, maintain a distance of 6 feet, and wash your hands.

Copyright 2020 Western Mass News (Meredith Corporation).  All rights reserved.

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