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Factors that affect the lifetime of a coronavirus-laden droplet

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As the world battles the Covid-19 pandemic, scientists are understanding better every day how the disease spreads via the novel coronavirus.

Scientists are studying 2 ways the virus spreads: On respiratory droplets and aerosols — which we create when we sneeze, cough, or even just talk…

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...or on tiny aerosolized particles of dust, called fomites.

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For respiratory droplets, whether they’re on the larger end of the scale (around 100 microns) or the aerosol-sized end (5 microns or smaller), both heat and humidity can affect how long virus-laden droplets can survive in the air.

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In a new paper, researchers found that in a room with 95% humidity at 72 degrees, 50-micron-sized droplets can survive 23 times longer than in lower humidity.

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However, once the temperature was lowered, the droplet lifetime decreased.

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But in a less humid and more cold environment, the droplet lifetime once again increased.

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Another paper looked at how long fomites remained in the air after being disturbed from a dusty surface or environment.

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Although fomites could possibly spread the virus, the researchers noted that so far, there has been no evidence of transmission via fomite.

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Some caveats: this research is extremely useful for studying coronavirus transmission, but we still don’t fully understand how droplets behave once we produce them.

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We also don’t fully understand how much virus an aerosolized droplet could carry — although there has been anecdotal evidence of transmission via aerosols.

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Scientists still emphasize the importance of wearing masks and keeping at least 6 feet of distance — especially indoors.

Read a deep dive of the research here.

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