Estimating the risk of COVID-19 in the air with mask use...

Estimating the risk of COVID-19 in the air with mask use...
Estimating the risk of COVID-19 in the air with mask use...

Simulation results for large eddies of aerosol “clouds” created by breathing an infected host in a turbulent boundary layer. Photo credit: Rajat Mittal, Charles Meneveau, and Wen Wu

The continued rise in COVID-19 infection around the world has led scientists from many different fields including biomedicine, epidemiology, virology, fluid dynamics, aerosol physics, and public policy to study the dynamics of airborne transmission.

Im Physics of liquidsResearchers at Johns Hopkins University and the University of Mississippi used a model to understand airborne transmission that is said to be accessible to a wide range of people, including non-scientists.

Using basic concepts of fluid dynamics and the known factors involved in airborne disease transmission, researchers propose the Contagion Airborne Transmission (CAT) inequality model. Although not all of the factors in the CAT inequality model may be known, it can still be used to assess the relative risks since the situational risk is proportional to the exposure time.

Using the model, the researchers found that protection against transmission increases in an approximately linear relationship with physical distance.

“When you double your distance, you generally double your protection,” said author Rajat Mittal. “This type of scaling or rule can help inform the policy.”

The scientists also found that even simple cloth masks could provide significant protection and could reduce the spread of COVID-19.

“We also show that any physical activity that increases people’s breathing rate and volume increases the risk of transmission,” said Mittal. “These results have important implications for the reopening of schools, gyms or shopping centers.”

The CAT inequality model is inspired by the Drake equation in astrobiology and develops a similar factorization based on the idea that airborne transmission occurs when a susceptible person inhales a dose of virus that exceeds the minimum infectious dose.

The model includes variables that can be added at any of three stages of airborne transmission: generation, ejection, and aerosolization of the virus-containing droplets from the mouth and nose of an infected host; distribution and transport via ambient air flows; and the inhalation of droplets or aerosols and the deposition of the virus in the respiratory mucosa of a susceptible person.

The researchers hope to study the efficiency of the face mask and the details of its transmission in high-density outdoor spaces. Beyond COVID-19, this model, based on the CAT inequality, could be applied to airway transmission of other respiratory infections such as flu, tuberculosis and measles.

The model, which was inspired by the search for extraterrestrial life, calculates the risk of COVID-19 transmission

More information:
Rajat Mittal et al., A Mathematical Framework for Estimating the Risk of Airborne COVID-19 Transmission with Application to Face Mask Use and Social Distancing, Physics of liquids (2020). DOI: 10.1063 / 5.0025476

Provided by the American Institute of Physics

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