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Social distance: coronavirus particles may spread further than anticipated

The coronavirus outbreak has triggered social distance measures worldwide. Researchers believe that the measures taken, may not be enough. Writes about it USA Today.

Photo: Shutterstock

Lydia Buruyba, An associate professor at the University of Massachusetts Technology, for many years, studied exhalation dynamics (such as coughing and sneezing) at the Laboratory for Fluid Transmission of Diseases and found that exhalation causes gaseous clouds that can spread up to 27 feet (8,2 m).

Her research may have implications for the global COVID-19 pandemic, although the distances required by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) are six feet (1,8 m).

“There is an urgent need to revise the guidelines that are currently being given by WHO and the CDC, especially for healthcare providers,” Buruiba said.

Buruiba's study calls for better protection for health workers, and possibly a greater distance for infected people who cough or sneeze. She said the current recommendations are based on “big drops” as a way to transmit the virus and the idea that these big drops can only go a certain distance.

In an article published in the journal of the American Medical Association, Buruiba said peak expiratory flow rates can reach 33-100 feet per second (10-30 m / s), and "N95 surgical masks and masks currently in use are not tested for such characteristics. respiratory emissions.

According to Buruyba, the idea that the drops “hit the virtual wall and stop” is not based on the evidence found in her study, nor on the “evidence we know about the transmission of COVID.”

Buruiba claims that a “gaseous cloud," which can carry drops of any size, is emitted when a person coughs, sneezes, or otherwise exhales. The cloud is only partially mitigated by sneezing or coughing at the elbow, she added.

How far can coronavirus microbes penetrate before they are no longer a threat?

Dr. Paul Pottinger, a professor of infectious diseases at the University of Washington School of Medicine, said questions remain about the distances at which the virus is effective.

On the subject: The coronavirus vaccine will be ready in the fall: who will receive it

“For me, the question is not how far germs can travel, but how far they can travel before they are no longer a threat. The smaller the microbial particles, the lower the risk that they can infect someone, said Pottinger. - We think the biggest threat of the coronavirus is the big droplets. Drops of saliva, snot, spitting. These droplets are large enough to still be subject to gravity. Typically, within six feet (1,8 m) of someone's body, larger and more infectious droplets fall to the ground. Hence the six-foot rule. "

WHO referred to a recent scientific paper on transmission methods that recommended “precautions for contact with drops and contacts for people caring for patients with COVID-19.”

“WHO is closely monitoring emerging evidence on this critical topic and will update this scientific summary as more information becomes available,” the WHO said in a statement. “WHO welcomes model studies that are useful for planning purposes. WHO teams are working with several model groups to inform our work. ”

According to Pottinger, if the coronavirus was active at a distance of up to 27 feet (8,2 m), according to Buruyba in his study, then more people would get sick.

“It takes a certain amount of viral particles, we call them 'virions', to actually take hold in the body and cause an infection to develop,” he said.

Buruiba said she wants to see recommendations made on the basis of modern science, and not "because we do not have enough personal protective equipment." It is well known that personal protective equipment is scarce throughout the country, and health workers are desperate to find effective ways to deal with the shortage.

“While many questions remain about how much of the virus is at a given distance, we currently don't have a clear answer,” she said. “Therefore, the precautionary principle should prompt the authorities to state that we must have high quality respirators used for healthcare workers. Once this is resolved, the colossal high level of production that can be achieved in a great country like the United States can be mobilized most effectively. ”

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Trump has extended the quarantine recommendations for US residents: what you need to know

The coronavirus vaccine will be ready in the fall: who will receive it

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