The Importance of Speech in Transmitting Coronavirus

Saturday, April 4, 2020 - 14:18

Aerosol scientists at University of California, Davis believe that normal speech by individuals who are asymptomatic but infected with coronavirus may produce enough aerosolized particles to transmit the infection.

According to the Science Daily report, aerosols are particles small enough to travel through the air. Ordinary speech creates significant quantities of aerosols from respiratory particles, said William Ristenpart, professor of chemical engineering at UC Davis.

The research, which has been done by Ristenpart, graduate student Sima Asadi and colleagues and published in the journal Aerosol Science and Technology, shows that the louder one speaks, the more particles are emitted and that some individuals are "superemitters" who give off up to 10 times as many particles as others. The reasons for this are not yet clear.

Calculating just how easily a virus like SARS-CoV-2 spreads through droplets requires expertise from different fields. From virology, researchers need to know how many viruses are in lung fluids, how easily they form into droplets and how many viruses are needed to start an infection. Aerosol scientists can study how far droplets travel once expelled, how they are affected by air motion in a room and how fast hey settle out due to gravity.

"The aerosol science community needs to step up and tackle the current challenge presented by COVID-19, and also help better prepare us for inevitable future pandemics," Ristenpart and colleagues conclude.

Other authors on the editorial are Asadi; Professor Anthony Wexler, UC Davis Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering; and Nicole Bouvier, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

Materials provided by University of California - Davis.

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