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Horrifying video shows how coronavirus spreads at the grocery store

Published Apr 10th, 2020 12:22PM EDT
Coronavirus USA
Image: YouTube

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  • Researchers in Finland created a high-tech simulation showing how tiny particles can spread in a confined space like a grocery store after a cough or sneeze.
  • The findings show exactly how a person infected with the novel coronavirus would spread it, and why strict hygiene and social distancing measures are mandatory.
  • Tiny aerosol particles that can carry the virus can linger in the air for several minutes or even longer in a closed space, posing a risk to anyone walking through the invisible particle cloud.
  • Visit BGR’s homepage for more stories.

Buying food and supplies during the COVID-19 shutdown can be a real challenge, and we’ve already explained what steps to take to ensure you’re as protected as possible while you’re out shopping. Proper planning, respecting social distancing rules, and using disinfectant at various points during your shopping experience are things to keep in mind. Also important is cleaning anything that may have been contaminated when you get home, from the clothes you wear to the packages you bring in. You’ll also need to remember to wash your hands multiple times every step of the way.

New CDC guidelines advise the use of face masks in public to reduce the risk of getting the virus being infected or spreading the infection. This wasn’t a requirement until a few weeks ago, but it turns out that wearing any sort of mask, even the ones you make yourself (here’s how to make DIY coronavirus face masks), can really help. A series of studies have shown that it’s not just coughing and sneezing that can spread the novel coronavirus. Something as simple as talking can also spread COVID-19 via micro-droplets that float in the air. And now, we have a simulation of how the coronavirus might spread at the grocery store.

Researchers from Aalto University in Finland created a 3D simulation of a person coughing in an indoor environment, proving that the tiny droplets will not immediately settle on the ground like some people initially thought. They might linger in the air, and you can inhale these particles when someone coughs or sneezes near you.

The full animation is incredible, showing how exposed people truly are. Coronavirus pandemic aside, this sort of study shows how easy it can be for any infectious pathogens to spread through the air.

The researchers obtained the same preliminary result: in the situation under investigation, the aerosol cloud spreads outside the immediate vicinity of the coughing person and dilutes in the process. However, this can take up to several minutes. ‘Someone infected by the coronavirus, can cough and walk away, but then leave behind extremely small aerosol particles carrying the coronavirus. These particles could then end up in the respiratory tract of others in the vicinity’, explains Aalto University Assistant Professor Ville Vuorinen.

Once the particles linger, they can land on clothes and nearby products. That’s where the novel coronavirus can survive anywhere from a few hours to a few days.

The research proves why it’s essential to cough into your elbow, mask, or tissue, and why you have to wash your hands often. If you’re out, use disinfectant. And avoid touching your face at all costs since that’s how these particles could reach your eyes, nose, or mouth.

The study also shows that social distancing is a must during this pandemic. Even so, there may be situations where you won’t be able to maintain the recommended six feet of distance. And even if you do, you can still risk walking into a particle cloud from an infected person.

The researchers of the consortium modelled the airborne movement of aerosol particles smaller than 20 micrometres. For a dry cough, which is a typical symptom of the current coronavirus, the particle size is typically less than 15 micrometres. Extremely small particles of this size do not sink on the floor, but instead, move along in the air currents or remain floating in the same place. Studies of influenza A have confirmed that the influenza A virus can be found in the smallest particles, which measure less than 5 micrometres.

A similar study from researchers in Belgium and the Netherlands showed how shockingly easy it is be infected by airborne coronavirus even while outdoors. In such cases, people are advised to maintain an even greater distance between each other because six feet might not be enough to prevent the inhalation of aerosolized virus.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.

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