If everyone you know is coming down with a cold and flu then a big culprit to the spread of these germs and viruses is sneezing! We all know that coughing and sneezing can spread colds. However, scientists have discovered that the sneeze from a flu sufferer can lead to the virus not only infecting an entire room but also being contagious for several hours.
This finding gives further evidence to the theory that going into your doctor’s waiting room could lead to you coming out worse than when you entered. The concentrations of germs expelled into the air are large enough so that when breathed in up to over an hour after they were first expelled you can catch the illness. It also highlights why you are more likely to pick up an illness at the start of your holiday after sharing a long plane journey with other people who are ill.
The photo below, caught on a high speed camera gives a visual reminder of just how easily a virus can be spread. Stopping the spread of germs through a sneeze is simply a case of educating people to cover and catch those germs before they are thrown out into the air everyone else in the room is breathing!
Other studies have tended to concentrate on the larger droplets that are expelled and drop to the floor or a surface very quickly. However, this study published in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface was focussing on the smaller airborne droplets that it found can stay in the air for many hours or even days.
Dr Linsey Marr led the group of researchers from Virgina Tech in the U.S. who took air samples from three cross-country plane journeys, three nurseries and a healthcare clinic’s waiting room. From the samples, droplets of the flu virus were found in half of the cases. The researchers found that a typical cubic metre of air carried in it about 16,000 particles of flu virus. Dr Linsey Marr said, ‘Given these concentrations, the amount of viruses a person would inhale over one hour would be adequate to induce infection.’
He also noted that the ventilation systems in most offices will help to remove and circulate the contaminated air fairly quickly. Typically, a sneeze can expel about 40,000 droplets across a room at speeds of more than 100mph. Make sure you cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing so that you don’t spread your illness further.