At the moment, health and safety rules recommend people to stand six feet apart, but now a recent study has proven that distance may not be enough.
According to a new paper published in Physics of Fluids that looked at the transmission of viruses in the air, such as COVID-19, even with a slight breeze of 4 kph, saliva particles can travel 18 feet in 5 seconds. According to Dimitris Drikakis, who worked on the paper, "The droplet cloud will affect both adults and children of different heights. Shorter adults and children could be at higher risk if they are located within the trajectory of the traveling saliva droplets."
How saliva moves through the air is quite complex, as there are several different variables that can severely influence how far the saliva can go. Some of these variables are the size of droplets, how they interact with one another, airflow, heat, humidity, and more. To study how far saliva can move through the air, the researchers created a computational fluid dynamics simulation that examines the state of every saliva droplet that was in front of a person coughing. The simulation also considered the previously mentioned variables.
Talib Dbouk, another researcher of the paper, said, "Each cell holds information about variables like pressure, fluid velocity, temperature, droplet mass, droplet position, etc. The purpose of the mathematical modeling and simulation is to take into account all the real coupling or interaction mechanisms that may take place between the main bulk fluid flow and the saliva droplets, and between the saliva droplets themselves."
Drikakis also said, "This work is vital, because it concerns health and safety distance guidelines, advances the understanding of spreading and transmission of airborne diseases, and helps form precautionary measures based on scientific results."
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