The COVID-19 pandemic is largely caused by airborne transmission, a phenomenon that rapidly gained the attention of the scientific community. Social distancing is of paramount importance to limit the spread of the disease, but to design social distancing rules on a scientific basis the process of dispersal of virus-containing respiratory droplets must be understood. Here, we demonstrate that available knowledge is largely inadequate to make predictions on the reach of infectious droplets emitted during a cough and on their infectious potential. We follow the position and evaporation of thousands of respiratory droplets by massive state-of-the-art numerical simulations of the airflow caused by a typical cough. We find that different initial distributions of droplet size taken from literature and different ambient relative humidity lead to opposite conclusions: (1) most versus none of the viral content settles in the first 1–2 m; (2) viruses are carried entirely on dry nuclei versus on liquid droplets; (3) small droplets travel less than 2.5m versus more than 7.5m. We point to two key issues that need to be addressed urgently in order to provide a scientific foundation to social distancing rules: (I1) a careful characterisation of the initial distribution of droplet sizes; (I2) the infectious potential of viruses carried on dry nuclei versus liquid droplets.

Fluid dynamics of COVID-19 airborne infection suggests urgent data for a scientific design of social distancing

Olivieri S.;Cavaiola M.;Seminara A.;Mazzino A.
2020-01-01

Abstract

The COVID-19 pandemic is largely caused by airborne transmission, a phenomenon that rapidly gained the attention of the scientific community. Social distancing is of paramount importance to limit the spread of the disease, but to design social distancing rules on a scientific basis the process of dispersal of virus-containing respiratory droplets must be understood. Here, we demonstrate that available knowledge is largely inadequate to make predictions on the reach of infectious droplets emitted during a cough and on their infectious potential. We follow the position and evaporation of thousands of respiratory droplets by massive state-of-the-art numerical simulations of the airflow caused by a typical cough. We find that different initial distributions of droplet size taken from literature and different ambient relative humidity lead to opposite conclusions: (1) most versus none of the viral content settles in the first 1–2 m; (2) viruses are carried entirely on dry nuclei versus on liquid droplets; (3) small droplets travel less than 2.5m versus more than 7.5m. We point to two key issues that need to be addressed urgently in order to provide a scientific foundation to social distancing rules: (I1) a careful characterisation of the initial distribution of droplet sizes; (I2) the infectious potential of viruses carried on dry nuclei versus liquid droplets.
File in questo prodotto:
File Dimensione Formato  
Ro-Ol-Ca-Se-Ma-2020.pdf

accesso aperto

Tipologia: Documento in Post-print
Dimensione 2.13 MB
Formato Adobe PDF
2.13 MB Adobe PDF Visualizza/Apri

I documenti in IRIS sono protetti da copyright e tutti i diritti sono riservati, salvo diversa indicazione.

Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11567/1049377
Citazioni
  • ???jsp.display-item.citation.pmc??? 20
  • Scopus 79
  • ???jsp.display-item.citation.isi??? 68
social impact