Sneezing is more dangerous than previously thought

US, WASHINGTON (ORDO NEWS) — Physicist Lidia Buruiba of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology conducted an unusual study. In her article, published in the Journal of American Medical Association, she described a model for the distribution of droplets that form during sneezing.

The data obtained by Bourguiba differ from the ideas about sneezing that circulate in the scientific community. It turns out that drops of liquid ejected from the mouth and nose spread seven to eight meters from the source and remain in suspension much longer than previously thought.

Most current guidelines for the prevention and prevention of airborne infections are based on the work of William F. Wells, carried out in the 1930s. Wells, who studied the spread of tuberculosis, suggested that the droplets formed by sneezing can be roughly divided into large and small. The first quickly settle next to the sneezed.

The latter remain in the air much longer, but the water from them soon evaporates, leaving the pathogens in a dried form.

Based on Wells’ calculations, the World Health Organization recommends that patients stay at a distance of about a meter from those infected, and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – at a distance of two meters. A new study questions these recommendations.

For her work, Bourguiba filmed a sneezing process on video using a high-speed camera that records an image at a frequency of 2000 frames per second. This made it possible to determine that the distance over which droplets fly apart depends not only on their size.

This is influenced by the speed with which the liquid escapes from the nose or mouth, the degree of turbulent mixing of the particles, as well as humidity and ambient temperature. Thus, rather large particles can fly over a long distance and keep the pathogen in sufficient moisture.

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Sneezing is more dangerous than previously thought 2

According to the researcher, her work data may be important in combating the Covid-19 pandemic.

The results obtained by Bourguiba are consistent with the phenomenon identified by the hospital staff in Singapore: there, some patients were infected with coronavirus, even when the pathogen was not found in the air of hospital wards. Obviously, the SARS-CoV-2 virus, ejected by patients a few meters when sneezing, entered the ventilation system and spread throughout the facility.

To finally confirm the applicability of the results obtained in a pandemic, it is necessary to further study the processes of sneezing directly in those infected with coronavirus. It is also worth noting that with Covid-19, a more frequent symptom is not sneezing, but a cough: with it, according to one of the previous articles by Lydia Buruiba, fluid particles spread only 2.5 meters from the source.


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The article is written and prepared by our foreign editors from different countries around the world – material edited and published by Ordo News staff in our US newsroom press.