Researchers in Finland have released a chilling simulation that shows how droplets from a single cough in a supermarket can hang in the air for “several minutes” and travel across two aisles — possibly infecting nearby shoppers with the coronavirus.

Aalto University, the Finnish Meteorological Institute, VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland and the University of Helsinki studied how aerosolized particles spewed from the respiratory tract when coughing, sneezing — or even talking – flow through the air.

According to preliminary results, tiny particles carrying the coronavirus can linger in the air longer than was originally thought, driving home the importance of avoiding packed indoor spaces.

The four research organizations each conducted the modeling independently, using the same starting conditions, for a person coughing in an aisle between shelves, according to Aalto University.

“Someone infected by the coronavirus, can cough and walk away, but then leave behind extremely small aerosol particles carrying the coronavirus,” Aalto University Assistant Professor Ville Vuorinen said.

“These particles could then end up in the respiratory tract of others in the vicinity,” he added.

Jussi Sane, chief specialist at the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare, stressed the importance of the preliminary results.

“The (institute) recommends that you stay at home if you are unwell and that you maintain physical distance with everyone. The instructions also include coughing into your sleeve or a tissue and taking care of good hand hygiene,” Sane said.

“Based on the modeling of the consortium, it is not yet possible to directly issue new recommendations. However, these results are an important part of the whole, and they should be compared with the data from real-life epidemic studies,” Sane added.

The 30 researchers – specializing in fluid dynamics, aerosol physics, social networks, ventilation, virology and biomedical engineering – used a supercomputer that modeled the airborne movement of aerosolized particles smaller than 20 micrometers – or .0007874 of an inch, according to the university.

“For a dry cough, which is a typical symptom of the current coronavirus, the particle size is typically less than 15 micrometers,” it said.

“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 micrometers.”

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