This Japanese experiment shows how easily coronavirus can spread – and what you can do about it

covid japan

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Douglas Broom, Senior Writer, Formative Content


  • Microdroplets less than 100th of millimetre in size may spread the coronavirus.
  • Research in Japan shows microdroplets can remain in the air for 20 minutes in enclosed spaces.
  • Opening a window or a door can eliminate the droplets.

We’ve all heard the advice about catching sneezes and coughs in a tissue to avoid spreading coronavirus. But new research from Japan suggests that infection could be spread by simply holding a conversation with another person.

 

Using high-definition cameras and laser lighting, NHK, Japan’s public broadcaster, conducted an experiment with a group of researchers to capture the movement of microdroplets – particles that are less than 100th of a millimetre in size.

They found these microdroplets are emitted every time we speak – and the louder we talk, the more are emitted. So, two people holding a conversation at a normal distance apart could easily lead to infection.

The findings underline the social distancing message from the World Health Organization, which advises people to keep at least 1 metre apart at all times. It also reinforces the need to keep rooms well-ventilated.

A floating threat

The research sheds new light on the rapid spread of coronavirus. Previous studies focused on sneezes and coughs, which emit larger 1 millimetre droplets that can be seen using a normal camera.

NHK found that droplets from a sneeze fall quickly to the ground and do not travel very far, even in still air. But their cameras also picked up microdroplets, less than 100th of a millimetre across.

Rather than falling to the ground, the microdroplets float in the air and drift about. The researchers estimate that a single cough or sneeze can produce 100,000 microdroplets.

“Microdroplets carry many viruses,” says Kazuhiro Tateda, head of the Japanese Association for Infectious Diseases. “We produce them when we talk loudly or breathe heavily. People around us inhale them and that’s how the virus spreads. We’re beginning to see this risk now.”

Invisible risk

The researchers simulated a situation with 10 people in an enclosed space – the size of an average school classroom. When someone coughed, as expected, the larger droplets fell to the ground within one minute.

Microdroplets stay in the air for longer in closed spaces.
How far can microdroplets spread in 10 minutes?
Image: NHK

But 20 minutes after the cough, the microdroplets were still floating in the air – and had spread through the entire room.

However, when a window was opened, the microdroplets were quickly swept away in the breeze. Any airflow, it seems, will get rid of the super-light particles.

What is the World Economic Forum doing about the coronavirus outbreak?

A new strain of Coronavirus, COVID 19, is spreading around the world, causing deaths and major disruption to the global economy.

Responding to this crisis requires global cooperation among governments, international organizations and the business community, which is at the centre of the World Economic Forum’s mission as the International Organization for Public-Private Cooperation.

The Forum has created the COVID Action Platform, a global platform to convene the business community for collective action, protect people’s livelihoods and facilitate business continuity, and mobilize support for the COVID-19 response. The platform is created with the support of the World Health Organization and is open to all businesses and industry groups, as well as other stakeholders, aiming to integrate and inform joint action.

As an organization, the Forum has a track record of supporting efforts to contain epidemics. In 2017, at our Annual Meeting, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) was launched – bringing together experts from government, business, health, academia and civil society to accelerate the development of vaccines. CEPI is currently supporting the race to develop a vaccine against this strand of the coronavirus.

“What’s important is to create two openings,” says Tateda. “Do this at least once an hour. That lowers the risk of infection considerably.”

The researchers also say wearing a mask can greatly reduce the spread of microdroplets, helping to protect both the speaker and their listeners from the risk of catching coronavirus.

the sting Milestones

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

Extra mild ECB tapering of QE and zero interest rates keep euro low

Civilians suffering due to sanctions must be spared ‘collective punishment’ urges UN rights expert

Where are the world’s nuclear weapons?

Commission renews its commitment to strengthen fundamental rights in the EU

This is what a smart city should do for its people

Prospect of negotiated peace in Afghanistan ‘never been more real’ – UN mission chief

Why COVID-19 could mean a new dawn for Nigeria’s manufacturing sector

EU and Amazon cut deal to end antitrust investigation over e-books deals

Public health: Stronger rules on medical devices

Human traffickers in Libya are posing as UN staff, says Refugee Agency

Climate change: won or lost in cities or by cities?

‘Historic’ new Syria talks should focus on relief for war-weary civilians, says UN negotiator

SRHR and ending HIV: Can one be achieved without the other?

Robots and chatbots can help alleviate the mental health epidemic

‘Don’t forget Madagascar’s children’, UN appeals for long-term help as emergency worsens

Is this a turning point in the fight against slavery?

The big five EU telecom operators in dire straights

UN summits to urge ‘ambition and action’ on climate change, sustainable development: Guterres

“China will strive to enhance the performance of economic growth”, President Xi highlights from the World Economic Forum 2017 in Davos

How industrialisation could future-proof MENA’s Gulf economies

How tech is helping Egypt’s informal recyclers build a circular economy

Colombia is a Latin American success story, but must pursue new reforms to achieve stronger and more inclusive growth

More than half a million Rohingya in Bangladesh get ID cards for first time: UN refugee agency

Why do US presidential elections last so long? And 4 other things you need to know

Robots will soon be a necessity but they won’t take all our jobs

Berlin favours economic and social disintegration in certain Eurozone countries

Developing countries should not be liable for emissions ‘accumulated throughout history’, key UN development forum hears

How the textile industry can help countries recover from COVID-19

3 unexpected consequences of the US-China trade war

UN chief condemns killing of ‘blue helmets’ in DR Congo, as violence erupts prior to elections

Why the agtech boom isn’t your typical tech disruption

EU countries should ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health

6 data policy issues experts are tracking right now

UN monitoring team in Yemen verifies pullout of armed forces from crucial port zones

Conference on the Future of Europe: greater say for regions and social partners

European Institute of Innovation and Technology: Commission welcomes political agreement on strategy for 2021-2027

Secretary-General condemns attacks on UN peacekeepers in Mali

Norway has successfully enforced its foreign bribery laws but faces potential obstacles

More taxpayers’ money for the banks

The EU condemns Faroe Islands and Iceland to poverty

European Youth calls on European Council for urgent action on “humanitarian crisis” and questions the EU/Turkey deal respect of human rights

Parallel downfalls of Merkel and Deutsche Bank threaten Germany and Europe

Top UN officials sound alarm as Yemen fighting nears vital hospital in port city of Hudaydah

COP21 Breaking News: Conference of Youth Focuses on Hard Skills to Drive Greater Climate Action

This is what is still holding social entrepreneurs back

8 things we need to do to tackle humanitarian crises in 2019

This tool shows you which cities will flood as ice sheets melt

Social Committee slams the 28 EU leaders for false promises

Taxation: Commission refers Spain to the Court for imposing disproportionate sanctions for failure to report assets held abroad

The China-US trade deal will be signed on time; the path is set

These are the top 10 global causes of death – but two diseases are in decline

We need to bridge the education gap for refugees, says new UNHCR report 

The future of international election observation missions

Coronavirus response: Team Europe supports Somalia with three EU Humanitarian Air Bridge flights

EU Budget: A Reform Support Programme and an Investment Stabilisation Function to strengthen Europe’s Economic and Monetary Union

High-Level Forum on providing protection to Afghans at risk

UN launches plan to promote peace, inclusive growth in Africa’s Sahel

UN human rights chief warns of women’s rights complacency

These are the pitfalls of a cash-free society

Can climate change wait for the US to rejoin the Paris agreement?

More Stings?

Trackbacks

  1. […] Source : This Japanese experiment shows how easily coronavirus can spread – and what you can do about it […]

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: