A new study from MIT found that droplets carrying coronavirus can travel up to 8 meters.
The study found exhalations cause gaseous clouds that can travel up to 27 feet (8.2 meters). The finding could have implications for the global COVID-19 pandemic.
The research was conducted by a scientist from MIT.
Currently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) suggest six and three feet (0.9 m and 1.8 m) of space for social distancing.
But this study calls for better measures to protect health care workers and, potentially, more distance from infected people who are coughing or sneezing.
The researcher says peak exhalation speeds can reach 33 to 100 feet per second (36 km/h and 110 km/h) and surgical and N95 masks are not tested for these potential characteristics of respiratory emissions.
In the paper, she argued that a “gaseous cloud” that can carry droplets of all sizes is emitted when a person coughs, sneezes or otherwise exhales.
The cloud is only partially mitigated by sneezing or coughing into your elbow.
Other researchers also say questions remain about the distances at which the virus is effective.
The biggest threat with the coronavirus can be actually the larger droplets. Droplets of saliva, snot, spit. Droplets that almost look like rain when someone sneezes.
Those droplets are large enough that gravity still acts on them. Usually, within about six feet of leaving somebody’s body, those larger, more infectious droplets will drop to the ground. That’s where the six-foot rule comes from.
WHO referred to a recent scientific brief on the methods of transmission, which recommended droplet and contact precautions for those people caring for COVID-19 patients.
If the coronavirus were effective at ranges of up to 27 feet (8.2 meters), more people would be sick.
The researcher wants to see recommendations made based on current science, not policies based on supply, for example, because people don’t have enough PPE (personal protective equipment).
The lead author of the study is Lydia Bourouiba, an associate professor at MIT.
The study is published in JAMA.
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