Coronavirus continues to dominate both domestic and international affairs. The news that President Donald Trump has tested positive for the virus highlights the indiscriminate nature of the pathogen – no one can be fully shielded from it. There are ways to mitigate the risk of catching COVID-19, however.
Research continues to shed light on the ways the pathogen can be transmitted.
This knowledge is vital because it help us to adapt our everyday practices in a bid to reduce our risk.
A new study underscores the importance of social distancing, particularly as we head into winter.
Buttoning down the hatches for winter risks being a hotbed for the virus because engaging in ordinary conversation can spray coronavirus-infected droplets across a room, new research has revealed.
Researchers from Princeton University found that normal conversations can generate a conical ‘jet-like’ airflow that carries droplets for metres.
To gather their findings, the researchers used a high-speed camera to film the movement of droplets from a person saying several different phrases next to a sheet.
They found that certain speech utterances determine the distance and speech of transmission.
The researchers found that hard sounds like “p” cause droplets to travel up to one metre.
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A succession of sentences creates a cone-shaped, turbulent, jet-like flow that can propel droplets over two metres in 30 seconds, they said.
Alarmingly, this airflow could easily and quickly carry tiny particles away from the speaker, warned the team.
What’s more, even short phrases were found to move particles beyond the one-metre distancing.
Dr Howard Stone, one of the researchers on the study, said: “People should recognise that they have an effect around them. It’s not just around your head, it is at the scale of metres.
“If you speak for 30 seconds in a loud voice, you are going to project aerosol more than six feet in the direction of your interlocutor.
The researchers hope the findings will underscore the importance of ventilation and face masks to reduce the spread of coronavirus.
Dr Stone added: “It certainly highlights the importance of ventilation. Especially if you have an extended conversation.
“Masks really cut this flow off tremendously. This identifies why (most) masks play a big role. They cut everything off.”
Coronavirus – do you have it?
According to the NHS, the main symptoms of COVID-19 include:
- A high temperature – this means you feel hot to touch on your chest or back (you do not need to measure your temperature)
- A new, continuous cough – this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or three or more coughing episodes in 24 hours (if you usually have a cough, it may be worse than usual)
- A loss or change to your sense of smell or taste – this means you’ve noticed you cannot smell or taste anything, or things smell or taste different to normal.
“Most people with coronavirus have at least one of these symptoms,” says the health body.
If you have any of the main symptoms of COVID-19, UK health advice says to get a test as soon as possible.
Stay at home and do not have visitors until you get your test result – only leave your home to have a test.
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