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Sneezing and Coughing?...here's how far germs can spread



Have you ever wondered just how far germs can spread through sneezing and coughing?


We can all admit to feeling a bit more uncomfortable when someone coughs or sneezes in our direction without covering their nose and mouth. So just how far do germs actually travel? 


A few modes of transmission can be found with infectious diseases:


1. Large Droplet Transmission:

    Droplets of infected people are expelled when they cough, sneeze or talk, if someone else inhales

those secretions, they can get sick too by coming into contact with someone's infected mucous

membranes. Pertussis (whooping cough), the Common Cold and the Flu are mainly spread this way.


2. Airborne Transmission:        

    This type of transmission allows potential pathogens to remain suspended in the air for some time

after someone coughs, sneezes or talks. If someone were to breathe in those particles they might

also get sick. Measles, Tuberculosis and Chickenpox fall into this category.


3. Both Types of Transmission:

    Some illnesses can infect people via both ways of transmission. The Flu for example mainly spreads

through large droplets but the CDC notes that it can be airborne as well. Infectious Diseases can

spread in many other ways such as through direct contact (kissing), however in this article we will be

focusing on how far germs can spread through the air.


So just how far can germs actually spread through the air?


Research done by MIT and recorded in the New England Journal of Medicine has found that large respiratory droplets containing pathogens such as influenza can travel up to a distance of 6 feet when a sick person sneezes or coughs. High-speed imaging recording was used to record footage upwards of 1000 frames per second, slowing down the footage to see just how far the droplets of a sneeze actually travelled. The largest droplets settled at about 3 to 6 feet away, whilst the smaller, evaporating droplets remained suspended in the air up to a distance of 26 feet. The researchers also noted that the distance was theoretically high enough to enter and travel through some ceiling ventilation systems in some buildings.


"The smaller and evaporating droplets are trapped in the turbulent puff cloud, remain suspended, and, over the course of a few seconds to a few minutes, can travel the dimensions of a room and land up to 19 to 26 feet away." - according to the lead researcher Lydia Bourouiba of MIT's Fluid Dynamics and Disease Transmission Laboratory


The problem with airborne pathogens is not how far they can spread, but more how long they can remain suspended in the air and on objects. The air suspension time is dependent on the pathogen in question, but Measles for example can live for up to 2 hours in the air and on surfaces. Measles is highly contagious and up to 90% of people who are in close proximity to an infected person and who has not been vaccinated might catch the illness.


Some good news is that you are not guaranteed to get sick if someone sneezes or coughs nearby you.


Whilst the thought of someone coughing or sneezing in your face can be nauseating, that still doesn't

mean that you are destined to get sick, but it can boost your chances...even if you hold your breath and close your mouth. "This is due to the fact that some particles stay suspended in the air in some cases for many hours, and you can't hold your breath that long." - Keith Roach M.D., associate professor in clinical medicine at the New York Presbyterian Hospital. Even if you rush away from the sneezing scene, some particles might still be on your clothes which you might touch later. 


So what can you do?


1. Practice Good Hygiene

    Ensure that you wash your hands often and cover your nose and mouth if you sneeze or cough.


2. Use an Alcohol-Based Hand Sanitizer

    Ensure that your hand sanitizer contains at least 60% alcohol in order to be as effective as

    possible as indicated by the CDC. Many studies have found that sanitizers with an alcohol

    concentration between 60 and 95% are most effective in killing germs than those with a lower

    alcohol concentration, non-alcohol based hand sanitizers or natural products. 


3. Avoid Sick People

    Whilst this is not always possible, ensure that you steer clear from any sick people and definitely

    avoid any close contact as much as possible. Be mindful of touching common surfaces such as       

door knobs, faucet handles, coffee machines, printer buttons, etc.


4. Ensure that you look after your Health

    Follow a healthy diet, get enough sleep each night and exercise often to ensure that you are at

    your optimum health each day.


5. Get the Weekly Sprinkle Spray Service

    Our program has helped out many facilities to date with effective germ control. Wiping down

    every nook and cranny becomes an arduous task, but with our molecular charged disinfectant

    solution all areas are covered as soon as a room is sprayed, ensuring that everything from pens

    and doorknobs to walls are covered. 


With Sprinkle Spray we believe Prevention is Better than Cure. We also offer a wide range of disinfecting products for your home and office. If you have been struggling with effective germ control, contact us today for a no obligation quote.

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