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The airborne lifetime of small speech droplets and their potential importance in SARS-CoV-2 transmission

May 23, 2020
By: Valentyn Stadnytskyi, Christina E. Bax, Adriaan Bax, and Philip Anfinrud

Abstract

Speech droplets generated by asymptomatic carriers of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) are increasingly considered to be a likely mode of disease transmission. Highly sensitive laser light scattering observations have revealed that loud speech can emit thousands of oral fluid droplets per second. In a closed, stagnant air environment, they disappear from the window of view with time constants in the range of 8 to 14 min, which corresponds to droplet nuclei of ca. 4 μm diameter, or 12- to 21-μm droplets prior to dehydration. These observations confirm that there is a substantial probability that normal speaking causes airborne virus transmission in confined environments.

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