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On the street, in the store, in the office: how to protect yourself from the coronavirus while quarantining

How dangerous is a sneezing person at a bus stop for me? Do I need to go to a restaurant? How necessary is public transport? As the world gradually leaves quarantine and we return to the social environment, to our usual activities, the risk of infection and the spread of coronavirus increases. This causes fear of the second wave of the epidemic, writes Air force.

Photo: Shutterstock

The editors of the publication talked with the immunologist, associate professor of the University of Massachusetts in Dartmouth, Erin Bromage, about how to reduce the risk of catching COVID-19.

Dr. Bromage teaches a course on the epidemiology of infectious diseases and has been closely monitoring the development of the current pandemic from its inception.

He is not so much an expert on this particular disease as a skilled promoter of scientific knowledge. About 16 million people read his blog about the risks associated with coronavirus.

This is what he advises to do in the period of at least a partial return to normal life.

Where can I get an infection?

Dr. Bromage says that most people become infected in their own homes through another member of the family who passes the infection on to everyone else through constant contact.

And outside the house? Are we at risk during our daily walks in the park? This frivolous runner without a mask - will he give me the disease now?

Hardly, the professor believes.

“In the open air, the virus is sprayed in an unlimited volume,” he explained in an interview with the BBC. “The human exhalation dissipates very, very quickly.”

This means that your dose of the virus is likely to be insufficient to become infected.

“In order for you to get sick, the so-called infectious dose - about a thousand particles of the SARS-CoV-2 virus - must get into your body. This assessment is based on studies of appropriate doses for MERS and SARS, ”he wrote on his blog.

On the subject: 20 professions with the highest risk of coronavirus infection

The specific figure remains the subject of discussion and should be confirmed experimentally, but gives a useful overall picture of how a person becomes infected.

The main thing here is that you can get the required dose in different ways.

“A thousand virus particles in one breath, or one hundred for ten breaths, or ten for one hundred breaths. Any of these situations can lead to infection, ”explains Dr. Bromage.

This means that for a very short contact with an infected person - the same runner who does not understand the need to maintain distance - you are unlikely to get an infectious dose.

In which situations should you worry more?

People with symptoms

Coughing and sneezing do spread infections, but in very different ways.

When coughing, a person throws about three thousand tiny drops into the air at a speed of 80 km / h at a time, says Dr. Bromage. Most of them are large enough to fall to the ground under their own weight, but some can remain in the air and fly to the opposite end of the room.

If the person with whom you are riding in the elevator does not cough, but sneezes, the risk increases by 10 times.

One sneeze is about 30 thousand particles moving at a speed of 320 kilometers per hour, and much smaller in size, so that they easily reach even the farthest end of the room.

“If a person is infected, then he coughs or sneezes, each time emits as much as 200 million viral particles,” says Dr. Bromage.

“If you are talking with someone face to face and this person coughs or sneezes right at you, then, of course, you can easily get an infectious dose of a thousand virus particles,” the expert explains.

If you were not present during coughing and sneezing directly, you are still in danger. Some droplets can soar in the air for several minutes, and when you enter the room, you will have time to inhale enough of them.

Asymptomatic Distributors

We know that the first five days after infection, people get sick without symptoms, and in some they do not appear at all, even later.

Viral particles enter the atmosphere during normal breathing. But how many?

“With one exhalation, 50 to 5000 droplets are released. Most of them move slowly and fall almost immediately to the ground, ”explains Dr. Bromage.

The number of drops is greatly reduced if a person breathes through his nose.

“The nose is an extra filter and the air goes vertically down. Thus, the number of pathogens released - viral particles - is relatively small, the expert points out. “It’s important that during normal breathing, air comes out without effort, so that viral particles from the lower respiratory tract do not enter it.”

This is important because the concentration of coronavirus in the lungs and trachea of ​​an infected person is higher than in the throat and in the mouth.

How many particles of the SARS-CoV-2 virus (the current coronavirus causing COVID-19) are released during breathing is not known. But Professor Bromage cites research data, according to which, with ordinary flu, the patient distributes from three to 20 viral particles per minute.

If this data is also true for the pathogen COVID-19, then, being in the presence of an infected person, you should inhale absolutely all the particles secreted by him for 50 minutes in order to gain an infectious dose of a thousand particles (all data are estimated and approximate).

On the subject: Most patients with COVID in New York strictly enforced quarantine but became infected

Summing up, we can say that the probability of getting sick, just being in the same room with the carrier of the infection, is relatively small if he does not sneeze and does not cough.

However, most infections outside the home are likely to result from exposure to asymptomatic patients.

The risk increases by about 10 times if you talk, reminds Bromage.

Dramatically increasing the amount of droplets of saliva singing and screaming entering the atmosphere.

“Once you scream or sing, and the droplets begin to literally shell the space in front of you, and they come from the depths of the lungs, where the tissues are more infected,” says the specialist. “In general, any exhalation effort dramatically increases airborne contamination.”

What places are especially dangerous

Naturally, those who, due to their profession, deal with infected people are at greatest risk.

Also, cases of mass disease of people in certain places are known. In this regard, everyone remembers cruise ships. Dr. Bromage also refers to such environments as open office spaces, sports and leisure events, parties, funerals and choral rehearsals.

In all these cases, the risk of infection is great, because people spend considerable time indoors in the company of other people, among whom there may be carriers of infection.

“Even if a specific sick person is 15 meters away from you, as during a choir rehearsal or at a call center, and the number of virus particles reaching you is small, you can take a dose over a long time,” the scientist assures.

As people return to their jobs, some professions are of particular concern.

The most common problems are open office spaces with poor ventilation. Dr. Bromage cites a case where in South Korea 216 employees worked in one large open space, and 94 of them fell ill.

There are not so many dentists in the general population, but they are a special risk group.

“In the course of their work, drilling, suction and other things, a large amount of aerosol substance is formed. The administration should consider how to organize the workspace in such a way as to protect its employees, because the danger is primarily for dentists and not for patients, ”says Dr. Bromage.

Another risk group is teachers and educators.

“Teachers and teachers, mostly elderly people, should be in the same room with young people for a long time. We need to think thoroughly about how to secure these jobs, ”the expert notes.

In the air and indoors

According to Bromidge, among the known episodes of mass infection, only very few happened outdoors.

Wind and space scatter the concentration of the virus, and sunlight, heat and humidity can shorten its survival.

By keeping your distance and shortening your contacts, you reduce the risk even further.

But some enclosed spaces are potentially very dangerous, especially events where people in crowded conditions talk to each other, sing and shout, and where it is difficult to effectively keep distance.

Rooms with poor ventilation and air conditioning are problematic.

Here are shops (at least for buyers) - much less dangerous if you do not stay long in the same place.

Risk assessment

The restrictions associated with coronavirus are gradually being removed, but we must critically assess the degree of danger of certain occupations, Dr. Bromage advises.

If you are going to go into a closed space, take into account its cubic capacity, the number of people at the same time there and the duration of your stay in it.

“If you are sitting in a well-ventilated area with few people, the risk is low,” says the scientist. - If you work in an open office, you need to evaluate its volume, number of people and ventilation. If your work involves face-to-face contacts, especially loud conversations and screaming, think carefully. ”

On the subject: Quarantine exit: how to protect yourself from coronavirus if you return to work

For example, for a visitor to a shopping center, if he doesn’t stay in it for long, and there are not so many guests and the volume of the room is large, then the danger is not so great. For a warehouse worker spending all day there, it is much higher.

Outside, the risk of infection is much less, because the infected droplets dissipate quickly, but remember the dose and time, the professor notes.

“So far we have talked about the transmission of the virus by airborne droplets, but we must not forget about the surfaces. Infected droplets settle anywhere. Wash your hands often and don’t touch your face, ”says Bromage.

And, probably, you will have to temporarily abandon the custom of blowing out candles on a birthday cake.

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