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Can you spread COVID-19 by talking?

May 16, 2020 12:13 IST
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Why a new study suggests you wear a face mask when you speak to anyone.

Can you spread infection while talking?

*IMAGE: Kind courtesy Hans/Pixabay

A new study shows that ordinary speech has the capability of emitting small respiratory droplets that stay in the air for a minimum of eight minutes, reports The Washington Post.

The experiment explains the reason behind the coronavirus infections spreading in nursing homes, conferences, households and other places.

The research was conducted by scientists at the University of Pennsylvania and the National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

It was published in a peer-reviewed journal, National Academy Of Sciences.

The findings are based on a laser light-based study that examined the number of respiratory droplets that are emitted through human speech.

‘Highly sensitive laser light scattering observations have revealed that loud speech can emit thousands of oral fluid droplets per second,’ The Washington Post quoted from the study.

Experts have studied the case of coronavirus transmission in a call centre in South Korea and in a crowded Chinese restaurant.

The cases have led to suspicion that the highly contagious virus can be spread through aerosol droplets.


This particular study did not involve research based on coronavirus specifically. It rather studied how people generated respiratory droplets while speaking.

The experiment only focused on smaller droplets that have the capability of lingering for a longer time in the air.

The authors of the study have also concluded that louder speech leads to the production of more droplets.

The research paper suggests that speaking loudly for a minute generates at least 1,000 droplet nuclei containing virion (an entire virus particle) for more than eight minutes.

‘This direct visualisation demonstrates how normal speech generates airborne droplets that can remain suspended for tens of minutes or longer and are eminently capable of transmitting disease in confined spaced,’ the authors told The Washington Post.

‘This study is the most accurate measure of the size, number and frequency of droplets that leave the mouth during a normal conversation and shower any listeners within range,’ The Washington Post quoted Benjamin Neuman, a virologist at Texas A&M University-Texarkana, as saying.

‘This study doesn’t directly test whether the virus can be transmitted by talking, but it builds a strong circumstantial case that droplets produced in a normal close conversation would be large enough and frequent enough to create a high risk of spreading SARS-CoV-2 or any other respiratory virus between people who are not wearing face masks,’ Neuman added.

*Image used for representational purposes only.

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Source: ANI