Researchers share strategies to cut indoor COVID transmission

New York: To fight against novel coronavirus, scientists, including one of Indian-origin who studied the aerodynamics of infectious COVID-19 disease have shared steps to curb transmission during indoor activities.

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“Wear a mask, stay six feet apart, avoid large gatherings. As the world awaits a safe and effective vaccine, controlling the COVID-19 pandemic hinges on widespread compliance with these public health guidelines,” said study researcher Abhishek Kumar from the University of Colorado Boulder in the US.

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“But as colder weather forces people to spend more time indoors, blocking disease transmission will become more challenging than ever,” Kumar added.

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The study, presented at the 73rd Annual Meeting of the American Physical Society’s Division of Fluid Dynamics, suggests strategies for lowering risk based on a rigorous understanding of how infectious particles mix with air in confined spaces.

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Research early in the pandemic focused on the role played by large, fast-falling droplets produced by coughing and sneezing.

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However, documented super-spreader events hinted that airborne transmission of tiny particles from everyday activities may also be a dangerous route of infection.

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Fifty-three of 61 singers in Washington state, for example, became infected after a 2.5-hour choir rehearsal in March.

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Of 67 passengers who spent two hours on a bus with a COVID-19-infected individual in Zhejiang Province, China, 24 tested positive afterward.

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The researchers found that when people speak or sing loudly, they produce dramatically larger numbers of micron-sized particles compared to when they use a normal voice.

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The particles produced during yelling, they found, greatly exceed the number produced during coughing.

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In guinea pigs, they observed influenza can spread through contaminated dust particles. If the same is true for the SARS-CoV-2, the researchers said, then objects that release contaminated dust-like tissues may pose a risk.

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The research focused on how the virus might spread during music performance. They discussed results from experiments designed to measure aerosol emission from instrumentalists.

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According to the researchers, travelling to and from office buildings in passenger cars also poses an infection risk.

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Kenny Breuer and his collaborators at the Brown University performed numerical simulations of how air moves through passenger car cabins to identify strategies that may reduce infection risk.

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If air enters and exits a room at points far away from passengers, then it may reduce the risk of transmission. In a passenger car, they said, that means strategically opening some windows and closing others.

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The researchers said that staying six feet apart “offers little protection from pathogen-bearing aerosol droplets sufficiently small to be continuously mixed through an indoor space.”

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“A better, flow-dynamics-based understanding of how infected particles move through a room may ultimately yield smarter strategies for reducing transmission,” the authors wrote.

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