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Viral entry through the eyes and mouth is a possibility: Study

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A new study on the transmission of viruses through talking, shows a higher risk of getting infected if a person acts as a passive listener and does not engage in a two-way conversation.

The research states that a two-way conversation is shown to significantly reduce aerosol exposure when compared with a one-way conversation. This is because of the ‘cancelling’ effect produced by the two interacting speech jets.

“Speaking is a complex activity … and when people speak, they’re not really conscious of whether this can constitute a means of virus transmission,” said Sourabh Diwan, assistant professor, in the Department of Aerospace Engineering at Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru.

Aerosol transport by speech

Until now, very few studies have looked at aerosol transport by speech as a possible mode of asymptomatic transmission, Diwan added.  

While most of the previous studies have only considered the nose as the point of entry. The new analysis of speech flows incorporates the possibility of viral entry through the eyes and mouth.

Other factors such as the height difference between people engaged in a conversation and the quantity of aerosols released from their mouths also appear to play an important role in viral transmission,the release said.

The research team now plans to focus on simulating differences in the loudness of the speakers’ voices and the presence of ventilation sources in their vicinity to see their effect on viral transmission.

They also plan to engage in discussion with public health policymakers and epidemiologists to develop suitable guidelines. “Whatever precautions we can take while we come back to normalcy in our daily interactions with other people, would go a long way in minimizing the spread of infection,” said Diwan.

The study is published by researchers from the Department of Aerospace Engineering, Indian Institute of Science (IISc), along with the Nordic Institute for Theoretical Physics (NORDITA), Stockholm, and the International Centre for Theoretical Sciences (ICTS), Bengaluru carried out computer simulations to analyze the movement of the speech aerosols. The study is published in the journal Flow.

The SARS-CoV-2 which is responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic is known to be transmitted through more than one mode. During the early days of the pandemic, the primary mode of infection was believed to be through droplet transmission by an infected symptomatic person, through violent expiratory events like coughing.

Published on

June 17, 2022



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