Global technical consultation report on proposed terminology for pathogens that transmit through the air

Terminology used to describe the transmission of pathogens through the air varies across scientific disciplines, organizations and the general public. While this has been the case for decades, during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, the terms ‘airborne’, ‘airborne transmission’ and ‘aerosol transmission’ were used in different ways by stakeholders in different scientific disciplines, which may have contributed to misleading information and confusion about how pathogens are transmitted in human populations. This global technical consultation report brings together viewpoints from experts spanning a range of disciplines with the key objective of seeking consensus regarding the terminology used to describe the transmission of pathogens through the air that can potentially cause infection in humans. This consultation aimed to identify terminology that could be understood and accepted by different technical disciplines. The agreed process was to develop a consensus document that could be endorsed by global agencies and entities. Despite the complex discussions and challenges, significant progress was made during the consultation process, particularly the consensus on a set of descriptors to describe how pathogens are transmitted through the air and the related modes of transmission. WHO recognizes the important areas where consensus was not achieved and will continue to address these areas in follow-up consultations.