What happens when a Covid infected person coughs or sneezes?

doctor in covid uniform PPE

Can I be infected without even noticing?

By now we understand that corona-virus spreads through droplets and mucus that comes out when a person coughs or sneezes. We tried to understand the science of cough and sneeze and how does that affect the spread of corona-virus. Hence we decided to ask a medical professional the most important question that niggling our minds. Dr. Mohammed Ajeaidi – Specialist Family Medicine from Medcare Medical Centre Al Rashidiya spoke to Story of Fitness in detail about what happens when a covid infected person coughs, sneezes or speaks.

He said, “The way germs are spread is a key factor in preventing disease. It varies for different bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens.

close up of a man
Dr. Mohammed Ajeaidi – Specialist Family Medicine from Medcare Medical Centre Al Rashidiya

Covid, coughs and sneezes:

“Droplet transmission is the usual way that flu, COVID 19 and other viruses are spread from person to person when someone coughs or sneezes. Droplet particles are >5 μm in diameter. You expel droplets into the environment via your saliva and mucus when you cough, sneeze or talk. Generally, droplets spread to 1.8-meter distance (6 feet).

“Droplets might enter the eyes, nose, or mouth of those who are near. These droplets are not in the air for a long time. Some studies estimate that they stay in the air for 10 minutes until they land on any surface by the gravity effect.

“However, according to research by scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, it’s not just the person next to us we should worry about. Coughs and sneezes droplets can spread more than what we can imagine wrt covid. Coughing can spread droplets as far as six meters, and sneezing as much as eight meters.

Airborne Transmission

“In airborne transmission, a virus or bacteria can remain in the air for a long period, be distributed by airflow, and be inhaled. For this to occur, the size of the droplet nuclei must be very small, <5μm in diameter and the germs must be able to survive after being dried out. Only a few germs are commonly spread by airborne transmission. These include chickenpox, measles, and tuberculosis.

“New Report On Airborne Transmission; Some strong evidence that an airborne route of transmission might be possible for Covid 19 virus comes from a report published last month by the New England Journal of Medicine that described mechanically generating aerosols carrying the SARS-CoV-2 virus in the laboratory. It found that the virus in these little aerosols remained viable and infectious throughout the experiment, for 3 hours.”

Can I be infected without even noticing?

“Cough and sneezing droplets can be deposited on the different surfaces like tables, doors, keyboards, phones, elevators buttons, etc. Then, all you have to do is lay a finger on one of these surfaces and touch your nose, your eye or your mouth

Practice Cough etiquette:

  •  To prevent or reduce droplet transmission
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
  • Put your used tissue in a waste basket.
  • If you don’t have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your elbow, not your hands.
  • Remember to wash your hands after coughing or sneezing:
  • Most important practice to avoid the spread of the disease.

One final practice that helps prevent the spread of respiratory disease; if you are ill, you should try to distance yourself from others so you do not spread your germs. Distancing includes staying home, avoiding all unnecessary shopping or social activities.

This article was originally published on APRIL 13, 2020

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