How talking might transmit Covid-19

How talking might transmit Covid-19

 Sneezing and coughing aren’t the only ways that people can spread infectious pathogens like the coronavirus. A new study has found that talking also releases thousands of tiny respiratory droplets that can linger in the air for at least eight minutes— a discovery that might explain why Covid-19 cases are often clustered in nursing homes, cruise ships, offices, and other relatively confined spaces with limited air flow. The researchers didn’t examine the coronavirus itself, reports The Washington Post, but instead used highly sensitive lasers to track the small droplets that are emitted through human speech. 

The scans showed that people produce about 2,600 small droplets per second when talking, and that speaking more loudly can create larger droplets in even greater numbers. (A sneeze, for comparison, can produce up to 40,000 respiratory droplets.) The researchers found that while these droplets start shrinking as soon as they are expelled, they can remain airborne for eight to 14 minutes. The study didn’t examine whether such droplets could carry the coronavirus. But based on previous research, the authors estimate a minute of loud speaking could produce 1,000 viruscontaining droplets. “Big mouths of the world, beware,” says Andrew Noymer, a University of California at Irvine epidemiologist who was not involved in the study. “You’re putting the rest of us at risk.”

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