Covid-19 may spread via speech: Study

Taking into account the known concentration of coronavirus in saliva, scientists estimated that each minute of loudly speaking can generate more than 1,000 virus-containing droplets capable of remaining airborne for eight minutes or more in a closed space.
A laser projected into the box illuminated droplets, allowing them to be seen and counted.(Reuters file photo. Representative image)
A laser projected into the box illuminated droplets, allowing them to be seen and counted.(Reuters file photo. Representative image)
Updated on May 15, 2020 08:09 AM IST
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Washington | ByAgence France-Presse

Microdroplets generated by speech can remain suspended in the air in an enclosed space for more than 10 minutes, a study published on Wednesday showed, underscoring their likely role in spreading Covid-19.

Researchers at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) had a person loudly repeat the phrase “stay healthy” for 25 seconds inside a closed box.

A laser projected into the box illuminated droplets, allowing them to be seen and counted. They stayed in the air for an average of 12 minutes, the study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the US (PNAS) showed.

Taking into account the known concentration of coronavirus in saliva, scientists estimated that each minute of loudly speaking can generate more than 1,000 virus-containing droplets capable of remaining airborne for eight minutes or more in a closed space.

“This direct visualisation demonstrates how normal speech generates airborne droplets that can remain suspended for tens of minutes or longer and are eminently capable of transmitting disease in confined spaces,” the researchers conclude.

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