Study which shows how sneezes travel 'could help stop spread of disease'

Scientits 'tickled' the noses of 100 people to map sneezes

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Indy Lifestyle Online

Scientists have plotted how sneezes spread in the air, in research that they hope will help prevent diseases from spreading. 

Researchers at the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the US used high-speed cameras to film more than 100 people sneezing.

They found that the process is similar to flinging paint from a brush, as sneezing causes a sheet of fluid to be expelled into the air. This then balloons and breaks apart, before finally dispersing as droplets. 

The more elastic the saliva, the longer it would travel before separating into droplets. 

The team behind the research said their results go against the common belief that sneezes create a simple and uniform spray of liquid. 

The research published in the journal ‘Experimental Fluids’ builds on previous research reported in 2014, which showed how coughs and sneezes produce a mound of gas which carries infectious droplets 200 times farther than if they were disconnected drops.

In the latest experiment, researchers “tickled” the subjects' noses, and recorded them sneezing against a black backdrop. 

Lydia Bourouiba, the Esther and Harold E. Edgerton Assistant Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and head of the Fluid Dynamics of Disease Transmission Laboratory at MIT said that understanding how fluid from sneezing behaves can help to map the spread of infection and identify individuals known as “super spreaders”.