Indoor versus outdoor transmission of SARS-COV-2: environmental factors in virus spread and underestimated sources of risk

EuroMediterr J Environ Integr. 2021;6(1):30. doi: 10.1007/s41207-021-00243-w. Epub 2021 Feb 10.


The first case of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), which is caused by Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), in Europe was officially confirmed in February 2020. On 11 March 2020, after thousands of deaths from this disease had been reported worldwide, the WHO changed their classification of COVID-19 from a public health emergency of international concern to a pandemic. The SARS-CoV-2 virus has been shown to be much more resistant to environmental degradation than other coated viruses. Several studies have shown that environmental conditions can influence its viability and infectivity. This review summarizes current knowledge on the transmission pathways of the novel coronavirus, and directs attention towards potentially underestimated factors that affect its propagation, notably indoor spread and outdoor risk sources. The contributions of significant indoor factors such as ventilation systems to the spread of this virus need to be carefully ascertained. Outdoor risk sources such as aerosolized particles emitted during wastewater treatment and particulate matter (PM), both of which may act as virus carriers, should be examined as well. This study shows the influence of certain underestimated factors on the environmental behavior and survival of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. These aspects of coronavirus propagation need to be accounted for when devising actions to limit not only the current pandemic but also future outbreaks.

Keywords: Aerosolized particle; Air pollution; COVID-19; SARS-CoV-2; Transmission pathways; Ventilation system; Wastewater.

Publication types

  • Review