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This terrifying video shows how viruses spread from a single cough in a supermarket

A video created by Aalto University, an educational institution in Finland, exemplifies why social distancing and covering your face when you cough are important precautions.

This terrifying video shows how viruses spread from a single cough in a supermarket
Image Source: Aalto University / YouTube

Amidst the Coronavirus outbreak, we're all thinking about how to stay safe and healthy. The best way to do that is to arm yourself with accurate information. For example, you may only need to wear a mask if you're exhibiting symptoms of illness - of Coronavirus or otherwise - unless you feel you are asymptomatic but might have the disease. Why are masks so important? Well, they are the best way to stop yourself from spreading the virus. A video recently uploaded to YouTube displays just how a simple cough could spread the disease in a supermarket, an essential service, Fox News reports.

 



 

The video was developed by Aalto University, an educational institution in Finland, using a mathematical model. The video, which depicts people and shelves dispersed throughout a supermarket, explains, "In the 3D model, a person coughs in a corridor bounded by shelves under representative indoor ventilation airflow conditions. As a result of coughing, an aerosol cloud travels in the air to the corridor. It takes up to several minutes for the cloud to spread and disperse." While the novel Coronavirus is not airborne - which means it cannot transfer through the air alone - the virus can spread through droplets from coughs and sneezes. When these droplets are placed in an ecosystem with ventilation, they can travel farther than you think.

 



 

The researchers of the study, completed by experts from Finland’s Aalto University, the Finnish Meteorological Institute, the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, and the University of Finland, explained their findings in a separate statement. "Preliminary results indicate that aerosol particles carrying the virus can remain in the air longer than was originally thought, so it is important to avoid busy public indoor spaces," they affirmed. "This also reduces the risk of droplet infection, which remains the main path of transmission for Coronavirus." The research study was completed with a supercomputer at CSC, which is the Finnish IT Center for Science, and 3D-visualization technology. The researchers modeled the airborne movement of aerosol particles smaller than 20 micrometers. However, it must be noted that the particle size for a dry cough is usually less than 15 micrometers. The team stated, "Extremely small particles of this size do not sink on the floor, but instead, move along in the air currents or remain floating in the same place."

 



 

They continued, "[We] modeled a scenario where a person coughs in an aisle between shelves, like those found in grocery stores; and taking into consideration the ventilation. In the situation under investigation, the aerosol cloud spreads outside the immediate vicinity of the coughing person and dilutes in the process. However, this can take up to several minutes." While it may take several minutes, the chances of contracting the virus do not diminish - even if the person who coughed walks away. "Someone infected by the coronavirus, can cough and walk away, but then leave behind extremely small aerosol particles carrying the coronavirus," Aalto University Assistant Professor Ville Vuorinen explained. "These particles could then end up in the respiratory tract of others in the vicinity."

 



 

Social distancing, self-isolation, and quarantine have been integral parts of battling this public health crisis. In several countries across the world, it is social distancing that has helped "flatten the curve" and, in particularly advanced cases, reduce the number of deaths caused by Coronavirus. The Centers for Disease Control hence encourages social distancing where possible but also recommends using masks or cloth face coverings. These are especially important measures in "areas of significant community-based transmission." As some folks may carry the virus but exhibit no symptoms, this can limit the possibilities of spread.

 



 

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