By Dr. Mallika Marshall

BOSTON (CBS) —  As Massachusetts continues to fight the coronavirus pandemic, the public has plenty of questions. Dr. Mallika Marshall answered some of those sent to her email ( and Facebook and Twitter accounts.

“Can the virus be transmitted by secondhand smoke? I went out for a walk and saw a gentleman about 15 feet away so I didn’t raise my mask up, but then I got a whiff of cigarette smoke.” -Larry from Lunenburg

The virus doesn’t travel on smoke particles but whenever someone smokes, they are exhaling respiratory droplets, so keep clear of anyone who is smoking. That said, 15 feet is probably a safe distance because open-air allows for good ventilation making it unlikely you would inhale enough respiratory droplets to make you sick even if the smoker had the coronavirus.

“Is it safe to take out a book from the public library?” -Fred 

While the virus might persist on paper for some time, chances are any book that you check out has been on a shelf or in a bin for a number of days…unless you choose a book that’s incredibly popular. To be on the safe side wipe off the cover with disinfectant. The biggest threat, however, would be getting too close to other people in the library. So keep your distance and wear a mask.

“I’m perplexed that we are supposed to cough and sneeze into our elbow area, but that’s also the accepted way to greet someone without using our hands. Can’t the virus spread around the elbow area and pass to another person?” -Nancy

Yeah, if you’re going to cough and sneeze and you don’t have a mask on, best to do it into your inner elbow. But in the age of coronavirus, you shouldn’t be fist-bumping, or elbow-tapping anyhow. Touching someone who isn’t in your household is not advised because you could inadvertently pass on the virus.

“Can mosquitoes carry and transmit the virus?” -Jim 

No, mosquitoes do not transmit the coronavirus. But they can carry other viruses like West Nile so you should still protect yourself from mosquitoes as we head into summer.

Dr. Mallika Marshall


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