Covid-19 spread via respiratory droplets will be more pronounced during winter: Study

Prashasti Awasthi Mumbai | Updated on October 16, 2020 Published on October 16, 2020

On the contrary, droplets evaporate more easily in hot and dry climate, leaving behind tiny virus fragments

A new study claims that transmission of the virus via respiratory droplets will be more pronounced during winter months.

The study, published in the journal Nano Letters, speculated that current protocols will need to be revised for the upcoming winter.

Yanying Zhu, a co-author of the study from the University of California (UC) Santa Barbara, US, said in a statement: “We found that in most situations, respiratory droplets travel longer distances than the six-foot social distance recommended by the CDC.”

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The study stated that in indoor environments, such as walk-in refrigerators and coolers, where temperatures are low and humidity is high to keep fresh meat and produce from losing water in storage, the scientists said this effect is increased with the droplets transmitting to distances of up to six meters (19.7 feet) before falling to the ground.

They said in such environments, the virus can linger for a long duration, remaining “infectious from several minutes to longer than a day in various environments”.

“This is maybe an explanation for those super-spreading events that have been reported at multiple meat processing plants,” Zhu said.

Contrary to this, the hot and dry climate helps in evaporating the droplets more easily. In such conditions, the researchers said the evaporated droplets leave behind tiny virus fragments. These will join the other aerosolised virus particles that are shed as part of speaking, coughing, sneezing, and breathing.

“These are very tiny particles, usually smaller than 10 microns. And they can suspend in the air for hours, so people can take in those particles by simply breathing,” said study lead author Lei Zhao.

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The researchers said that, in summer, the aerosol transmission may be more significant compared to droplet contact, while in winter, droplet contact may be more dangerous.

Researchers stated in their study that hot and humid environments, and cold and dry ones, did not differ significantly between aerosol and droplet distribution.

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Published on October 16, 2020
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