Have you ever wondered why people attending parties, weddings, and sports events are almost always getting infected with COVID-19?
New studies have shown that spending time in close quarters with people increases the risk of Coronavirus infections. In such conditions, the virus can spread not only by coughing or sneezing, but also by talking and shouting.
What’s worse, it can actually “fly” for a significant distance in the air and find people to infect even if they are standing further than six feet.
People can release the virus even while talking
Dr Milton from the University of Maryland says that people release little droplets when they speak or shout or sing, and these droplets can float through the air for a long while and carry the virus to a considerable distance in the room.
He has been continuously petitioning so that airborne transmission of Coronavirus could be recognized and handled in a better way.
“Most public health organizations, including the World Health Organization, do not recognize airborne transmission except for aerosol-generating procedures performed in healthcare settings. Hand washing and social distancing are appropriate, but in our view, insufficient to provide protection from virus-carrying respiratory microdroplets released into the air by infected people.”
‘They don’t want to talk about airborne transmission because that is going to make people afraid’
Dr Milton is afraid that while CDC and WHO have asked people to wash their hands, staying far, and cleaning the commonly touched surfaces – they haven’t issued guidelines about how to prevent airborne spreading of the virus.
“There’s also an element of worry that if people think the virus is airborne, they’ll stop doing other things they need to do to prevent transmission, such as washing hands, staying apart and cleaning surfaces.”
But it’s quite obvious that wearing a mask will stop the infected people from releasing the virus into the air.
“I want them to understand to what extent washing their hands is important. Why wearing a mask is important is because it blocks the aerosols at their source, when it is easy to block them. It’s harder to block aerosols once they are floating in the air.”
This is how Coronavirus actually “flies”
The virus is carried on droplets that come out of people’s mouths and noses, and the sizes of those droplets vary. Large droplets fall onto surfaces rapidly and can be picked up on fingers and carried to the eyes, nose or mouth. Smaller droplets can stay in the air longer, and can be inhaled more deeply into the lungs.
Initially, it was assumed that the virus can travel a maximum of 1-2 meters but the recent studies have shown something much more terrifying:
“For example, at typical indoor air velocities, a 5 nanometre droplet will travel tens of meters, much greater than the scale of a typical room, while settling from a height of 1.5 metres (about five feet) to the floor.”
And that is why the crowd of people spending time in a closed room almost always get infected.
“A lot of people crowded close together indoors where it is poorly ventilated — that is what drives the pandemic. A loud bar, where people must raise their voices to be heard, is a perfect storm of close contact, poor air circulation and people generating a lot of virus-carrying particles by talking, laughing and shouting.”
However, the problem arises for healthcare workers who cannot avoid such a situation and the best solution for them is provide them with N95 masks but most governments are more interested in naming the health workers as heroes, instead of actually paying them better and providing them safety equipment.
Advice to avoid coronavirus transmission
• Proper ventilation (supply clean outdoor air, minimize recirculating air) particularly in public buildings, workplace environments, schools, hospitals and age care homes.
• Supplement general ventilation with airborne infection controls such as local exhaust, high-efficiency air filtration, and germicidal ultraviolet lights. (These would be placed high up in the ceiling to avoid damage to people’s eyes and skin)
• Avoid overcrowding, particularly in public transport and public buildings.
• Wear masks
Featured Image Courtesy: NPR