(ORDO NEWS) — The work of scientists from the University of Central Florida (UCF) shows how certain physiological characteristics can turn people into super-spreaders of the virus. An article about this was published in the Physics of Fluids edition.
In their study, scientists from the UCF Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering used computer models to simulate sneezing in different people. Based on the data they obtained, they determined the relationship between certain traits of a person and how far they spray aerosol particles when they sneeze.
“This is the first study of its kind to understand why a sneeze can travel so far,” says study co-author Michael Kinzel. According to the scientist, he and his colleagues were able to point out the physiological factors affecting the intensity and area of spraying of saliva and mucus particles when sneezing.
For example, if a person sneezes immediately after blowing his nose, and, accordingly, his nose is no longer blocked, then the flight speed of the particles and the distance over which they are sprayed decrease markedly. This is because when the nose is blocked, the area from which air can escape is limited, and this leads to an increase in the flow rate.
Teeth affect the intensity of sneezing in much the same way: people with a full set of teeth spray more aerosol particles more and more. “The teeth create a narrowing effect, which makes it stronger and more violent,” explains Kinzel. Simulations have shown that the dispersion distance of aerosol droplets emitted when a person with a stuffy nose and full set of teeth sneezes is about 60 percent greater than in other cases. It is these people who are the first candidates for the role of super-distributors of the virus.
Also, the saliva distribution during sneezing is significantly affected by the consistency of saliva. The thinner it is, the finer the droplets are, the more viscous. In addition, small aerosol particles remain in suspension for much longer and pose a danger to others.
The work of the researchers is connected with a project to create cough drops for Covid-19: this agent will thicken saliva in order to shorten the dispersal distance of drops when sneezing and coughing, and thus reduce the risk of transmission of infectious diseases. The authors of the work hope to conduct a series of clinical trials in the course of their study, in order to then compare the simulation results with the results obtained in real people from different walks of life.
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