Simulation Shows How Just A Single Cough Can Spread Coronavirus Across A Supermarket
Over the past year, we’ve all been told to avoid indoor spaces as much as possible. But there’s one place it’s been hard to stay away from: the supermarket.
Unfortunately, supermarkets are no safer than other indoor spaces when it comes to COVID-19, as one simulation of just how easily the virus can spread through the aisles shows.
Back in April, researchers from Aalto University in Finland shared a video which demonstrates how aerosol particles carrying the coronavirus can carry across as many as two aisles of a supermarket, remaining in the area for several minutes.
The video demonstrates how, when a person coughs in an aisle, they create a ‘cloud’ of aerosol particles. These particles are emitted from the respiratory tract through coughs and sneezes, but can also spread through simply talking. A dry cough – one of the key symptoms of COVID-19 – would typically emit aerosol particles smaller than 15 micrometres, small enough that they do not immediately sink to the floor, but can instead be carried through the air.
Modelling particles 20 micrometres in size, and taking conditions like ventilation into consideration, the researchers found that the ‘cloud’ of aerosols spread considerably further than the immediate vicinity of the person who coughed. The particles eventually diluted as they spread further, but remained concentrated in the air far beyond the 2 metre distance we’re all told to keep from others.
Professor Ville Vuorinen, who worked on the study, said:
Someone infected by the coronavirus, can cough and walk away, but then leave behind extremely small aerosol particles carrying the coronavirus.
These particles could then end up in the respiratory tract of others in the vicinity
In the early months of the pandemic, there was some confusion over whether Covid-19 could be transmitted through aerosols, with many countries advising that the biggest risk was by picking up droplets through contact. Scientists are now in agreement that the virus is in fact airborne, leading to the more widespread adoption of mask wearing as the pandemic has progressed.
Jussie Sane, chief specialist at the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare, explained how else people could avoid spreading and catching the virus in indoor spaces like supermarkets.
The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare recommends that you stay at home if you are unwell and that you maintain physical distance with everyone.
The instructions also include coughing into your sleeve or a tissue and taking care of good hand hygiene.
This model was created during the first wave of the pandemic, but with countries all across the world experiencing a winter resurgence of the virus, its worth reminding how easily it can spread if we don’t take the necessary steps to protect ourselves and others.
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