You can’t escape the sneeze timebomb

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  • If it feels like you constantly getting coughed and sneezed on during the winter months, then you’re probably right

    Researchers have confirmed our worst fears: that microscopic infected droplets emitted through a cough or a sneeze remain in the air for hours, contaminating anyone who crosses its path.

    Flu passes from person-to-person through direct physical contact or when someone sneezes or coughs. A person can be infected within the space of an hour.

    The US team from Virginia Tech collected samples of air from the waiting room of healthcare clinics, nursery rooms and cross country flights, finding a typical cubic meter of air to contain an average of 16,000 particles of flu virus.

    ‘Given these concentrations, the amount of viruses a person could inhale over one hour would be adequate to induce infection,’ says Dr Linsey Marr, who led the study published in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface.

    A typical cough shoots out around 3,000 droplets of saliva at approximately 50mph, while a sneeze contains as many as 40,000 droplets, leaving the body at a speedy 100mph.

    ‘The virus-laden aerosols are small enough that the smallest ones can remain suspended for days,’ says Dr Marr.

    So short of wearing a mask in the office or steering clear of public transport, it seems there is no escaping the contaminating splutters of the sneeze.


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