With coronavirus being spread through respiratory droplets, masks and social distancing have become a normal part of daily life for many of us. But is virus transmission the same for everyone? Could it be possible that some people are more likely to spread the virus than others?
A new study from Colorado State University suggests that men are more likely to spread viral particles than women. Researchers claimed this is due to speaking patterns and larger lung capacity in male biology—and the numbers are quite telling.
According to the study’s findings, males produce 62 percent more droplets than females. They also found that adults produced 62 percent more droplets than minors. And, singing produces 77 percent more droplets than talking.
However, when they account for participants’ voice volume and exhaled carbon dioxide, the study claimed that “age and sex differences were attenuated and no longer statistically significant.”
In other words, a man might produce more viral particles when talking compared to a woman or a 10-year-old child. But the child singing or woman yelling might produce more viral particles than the man.
Lead study author John Volckens—a professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering—said that these observations are important because they support the idea of measuring CO2 levels and noise levels in enclosed spaces to determine transmission risk.
“If there were significant differences after accounting for CO2 between males and females and kids, then you’d have to know how many males, females, and minors were in a room to estimate transmission risks,” Volckens explained.
“Our data suggest that you don’t need to know that if you just measure CO2 and noise levels, because those measures are an equalizer for these demographic differences.”
In the study, which was titled “Reducing Bioaerosol Emission and Exposures in the Performing Arts: A Scientific Roadmap for a Safe Return from COVID-19,” Volckens’ team explained there are many factors to consider when attempting to determine how viruses are transmitted.
“Factors such as the pathogen’s infectious dose, viral loads in the source individual, and susceptibility of the host (which may be impacted by individual’s physiology, genetics, and comorbidities), as well as a wide range of environmental and social factors related to human-to-human interactions all impact the likelihood that a disease is transmitted from one individual to another,” the study claimed.
The results of the study have already been used at CSU to help the college’s performing arts programs get back on stage. All of the music and drama programs have been shuttered or have gone virtual over the past two years. But this study has helped CSU reimplement its programming as safely as possible.
Monitoring CO2 and noise levels at an indoor performance venue could be a low-cost solution for indicating the risk of disease transmission. And not just for COVID-19. Volckens said this method could be used in the future for any airborne disease, like the common cold or seasonal flu.
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