Saturday, October 31, 2020

Why some people are superspreaders and how the body emits coronavirus

 The production of infectious aerosols can vary wildly between individuals—and experts are exploring why in the COVID-19 era.

Disinfection workers wearing personal protective equipment clean a street to prevent the spread of the coronavirus on October 6, 2020 in Seoul, South Korea. South Korea's new coronavirus cases stayed below 100 for the sixth straight day, but the country is bracing for a possible resurgence in new infections after the Chuseok holiday as a slew of clusters was reported. Photograph by Chung Sun-Jun, Getty Images

Fedor Kossakovski
National Geographic

Since Morawska began her investigations, scientists have learned a lot about airborne respiratory fluids and, in particular, what might make someone a superspreader, or superemitter. Certain attributes, such as the shape of one’s body, and certain behaviors, such as loud talking or breathing fast, appear to have a major role in spreading the disease.

”They're not sneezing. They're not coughing. They're just breathing and talking,” says Donald Milton, an aerosol transmission expert from the University of Maryland. “They might be shouting. They might be singing. Karaoke bars have been a big source of superspreading events. We saw one at a spin cycle club up in Hamilton, Ontario, where people are breathing hard.”

However, figuring out who are the most prodigious producers of aerosols has proven difficult—with many biological and physical factors affecting aerosol generation that are tough to parse out or even measure.  Read more >>