In the cloud: How coughs and sneezes float farther than you think
A study by CEE Professor Lydia Bourouiba and Professor John Bush of mathematics shows that coughs and sneezes have associated gas clouds that keep their potentially infectious droplets aloft over much greater distances than previously realized. The study finds the smaller droplets that emerge in a cough or sneeze may travel five to 200 times further than they would if those droplets simply moved as groups of unconnected particles — which is what previous estimates had assumed. The tendency of these droplets to stay airborne, re-suspended by gas clouds, means that ventilation systems may be more prone to transmitting potentially infectious particles than had been suspected. With this in mind, architects and engineers may want to re-examine the design of workplaces and hospitals, or air circulation on airplanes, to reduce the chances of airborne pathogens being transmitted among people. Read a story.