3D simulation shows how a single cough can spread coronavirus through a grocery store

BOSTON (WHDH) - Researchers at a university in Finland recently released a 3D simulation that shows how rapidly a single cough can spread coronavirus through a supermarket.

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In the model, a person can be seen coughing in a corridor bounded by shelves under representative indoor ventilation airflow conditions. As a result of the cough, an aerosol cloud then travels in the air to the corridor. After a few minutes, the cloud spreads and disperses across the store.

Aalto University, the Finnish Meteorological Institute, the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, and the University of Helsinki studied how extremely small airborne aerosol particles emitted from the respiratory tract when coughing, sneezing or even talking are transported in the air. They determined that such particles can carry pathogens such as coronaviruses.

“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,” researchers at Aalto University wrote. “This also reduces the risk of droplet infection, which remains the main path of transmission for coronavirus.”

The researchers then modeled a scenario where a person coughs in an aisle between shelves, like those found in grocery stores.

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“Someone infected by the coronavirus can cough and walk away but then leave behind extremely small aerosol particles carrying the coronavirus. These particles could then end up in the respiratory tract of others in the vicinity,” Aalto University Assistant Professor Ville Vuorinen stated.

The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare recommends that people stay at home if they are unwell and that they maintain physical distance with everyone. The instructions also include coughing into a sleeve or a tissue and practicing good hand hygiene.

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