COVID-19 Researchers Identify Features of a Virus Super-Spreader - SciTechDaily
Nov 21, 2020 3 mins, 8 secs

Sneeze velocity for four different nose and mouth types is shown. A) is open nasal passage with teeth, B) is open nasal passage without teeth, C) is blocked nasal passage without teeth, and D) is blocked nasal passage with teeth.

Sneezes from people who have congested noses and a full set of teeth travel about 60% farther than from people who don’t, according to a new study.

In a study appearing this month in the journal Physics of Fluids, researchers in UCF’s Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering used computer-generated models to numerically simulate sneezes in different types of people and determine associations between people’s physiological features and how far their sneeze droplets travel and linger in the air.

They found that people’s features, like a stopped-up nose or a full set of teeth, could increase their potential to spread viruses by affecting how far droplets travel when they sneeze.

Knowing more about factors affecting how far these droplets travel can inform efforts to control their spread, says Michael Kinzel, an assistant professor with UCF’s Department of Mechanical Engineering and study co-author.

For instance, when people have a clear nose, such as from blowing it into a tissue, the speed and distance sneeze droplets travel decrease, according to the study.

This is because a clear nose provides a path in addition to the mouth for the sneeze to exit.

But when people’s noses are congested, the area that the sneeze can exit is restricted, thus causing sneeze droplets expelled from the mouth to increase in velocity.

So, if you see someone without teeth, you can actually expect a weaker jet from the sneeze from them.”.

To perform the study, the researchers used 3D modeling and numerical simulations to recreate four mouth and nose types: a person with teeth and a clear nose; a person with no teeth and a clear nose; a person with no teeth and a congested nose; and a person with teeth and a congested nose.

When they simulated sneezes in the different models, they found that the spray distance of droplets expelled when a person has a congested nose and a full set of teeth is about 60 percent greater than when they do not.

The results indicate that when someone keeps their nose clear, such as by blowing it into a tissue, that they could be reducing the distance their germs travel.

The work ties back to the researchers’ project to create a COVID-19 cough drop that would give people thicker saliva to reduce the distance droplets from a sneeze or cough would travel, and thus decrease disease-transmission likelihood.

The findings yield novel insight into variability of exposure distance and indicate how physiological factors affect transmissibility rates, says Kareem Ahmed, an associate professor in UCF’s Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and study co-author.

Study co-authors were Douglas Fontes, a postdoctoral researcher with the Florida Space Institute and the study’s lead author, and Jonathan Reyes, a postdoctoral researcher in UCF’s Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering.

Kinzel received his doctorate in aerospace engineering from Pennsylvania State University and joined UCF in 2018.

In addition to being a member of UCF’s Department of Mechanical and Aerospace engineering, a part of UCF’s College of Engineering and Computer Science, he also works with UCF’s Center for Advanced Turbomachinery and Energy Research.

Ahmed is an associate professor in UCF’s Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, a faculty member of the Center for Advanced Turbomachinery and Energy Research, and the Florida Center for Advanced Aero-Propulsion.

He earned his doctoral degree in mechanical engineering from the State University of New York at Buffalo.

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