February 16, 2022

Study: SARS-CoV-2 particles may travel farther than once thought

Editor's Note

This study by researchers at the US Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Richland, Washington, finds that small respiratory particles can remain moist and airborne for a longer time and greater distance than scientists have recognized.

The researchers found that mucus shells surrounding respiratory droplets--emitted from the lungs, larynx, and oral cavities--reduce their evaporation rate, and the slower evaporation allows viral particles to be infectious longer.

They estimated that SARs-CoV-2 droplets encased in mucus could remain moist for up to 30 minutes and travel up to about 200 feet.

These findings are important also for those involved in cleaning HVAC systems or designing mechanical ventilation systems to remove particles from breathing zones.

How mucus shells affect drying times of droplets has not previously been analyzed, the researchers say.

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