Scientists Track Sneezes and Coughs

Added by on January 10, 2011

Scientists in Singapore are tracking sneezes and coughs to determine how, or if, airborne transmission of flu viruses occur.

The current study is using equipment to observe, in real-time, the spray emitted by a person when coughing, sneezing, laughing or talking, to capture data for establishing better guidelines for infection control.

Study team leader, Julian Tang, virologist and consultant at Singapore’s National University Hospital said the aim is to establish which pathogens are airborne and how significant this route of transmission is.

By better understanding airflows, scientists will develop recommendations for infection controls, such as how far apart hospital beds need to be placed and what types of quarantine measures are required.

Results so far show that whistling and laughing spread infection very effectively.

Tang said: “Laughing produces a surprisingly strong, diffuse, exhaled plume, and I suspect that singing (especially trained operatic singing) will produce an even stronger, more penetrating plume.”

However, Lang noted that the results do not indicate whether or not the plume will lead to infection or disease. This, he said, “depends on many other factors, such as virus survival and host immune responses – which other teams are studying.”

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