by Jordan Culver, Usa Today
The novel coronavirus has prompted social distancing measures around the world. One researcher believes what’s being done isn’t enough.
Lydia Bourouiba, an associate professor at MIT, has researched the dynamics of exhalations (coughs and sneezes, for instance) for years at The Fluid Dynamics of Disease Transmission Laboratory and found exhalations cause gaseous clouds that can travel up to 27 feet (8.2 meters).
Her research could have implications for the global COVID-19 pandemic, though measures called for by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization call for six and three feet (0.9 m and 1.8 m) of space, respectively.
“There’s an urgency in revising the guidelines currently being given by the WHO and the CDC on the needs for protective equipment, particularly for the frontline health care workers,” Bourouiba told U.S. TODAY.
Bourouiba’s research calls for better measures to protect health care workers and, potentially, more distance from infected people who are coughing or sneezing. She said current guidelines are based on “large droplets” as the method of transmission for the virus and the idea that those large droplets can only go a certain distance.
In a Journal of the American Medical Association article published last week, Bourouiba said peak exhalation speeds can reach 33 to 100 feet per second (36 km/h and 110 km/h) and “currently used surgical and N95 masks are not tested for these potential characteristics of respiratory emissions.”