Coughs or sneezes may not be the only way people transmit infectious pathogens like the novel coronavirus to one another. Talking can also launch thousands of droplets so small they can remain suspended in the air for eight to 14 minutes, according to a new study.
Droplets from the mouths of people who are talking loudly can linger in the air for up to 14 minutes before disappearing, the new study reveals.
The research, published Wednesday in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, could help explain how people with mild or no symptoms may infect others in close quarters such as offices, nursing homes, cruise ships and other confined spaces.
The study’s experimental conditions will need to be replicated in more real-world circumstances, and researchers still don’t know how much virus has to be transmitted from one person to another to cause infection. But its findings strengthen the case for wearing masks and taking other precautions in such environments to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.
Scientists agree that the coronavirus jumps from person to person most often by hitching a ride inside tiny respiratory droplets. These droplets tend to fall to the ground within a few feet of the person who emits them.
They may land on surfaces like doorknobs, where people can touch lingering virus particles and transfer them to their face. But some droplets can remain aloft, and be inhaled by others.