How everyday speech could transmit viral droplets

September 29, 2020

It is well known that an individual infected with the coronavirus can spread it to others through respiratory droplets projected by violent expiratory events like coughing and sneezing. Evidence also shows that the virus can also be transmitted before these symptoms arise. The airflow generated from everyday conversations is increasingly recognized as a potent route of transmission, especially as people spend more time indoors during the fall and winter. Using high-speed imaging of an individual producing common speech sounds, Abkarian and Stone report that the sudden burst of airflow produced from the articulation of consonants like /p/ or /b/ carry salivary and mucus droplets for at least a meter in front of a speaker. In additional experiments, the researchers demonstrate that an ordinary lip balm reduces the droplets contained in speech-driven flows.
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The research will be published in Physical Review Fluids on Friday, October 2, 2020.

Stretching and Break-up of Saliva Filaments during Speech: A Route for Pathogen Aerosolization and Its Potential Mitigation M. Abkarian and H. A. Stone

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The American Physical Society is a nonprofit membership organization working to advance and diffuse the knowledge of physics through its outstanding research journals, scientific meetings, and education, outreach, advocacy, and international activities. APS represents over 55,000 members, including physicists in academia, national laboratories, and industry in the United States and throughout the world. Society offices are located in College Park, Maryland (Headquarters), Ridge, New York, and Washington, DC.

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