Are You a COVID Super Spreader?


ORLANDO, Fla. (Ivanhoe Newswire)— The COVID vaccine is rolling out across the country, but medical experts say this is not the time to let our guards down. As of January, there have been over 25 million cases and 433,000 deaths in the U.S. alone. Now, scientists have uncovered some of the factors that may make one person more likely to spread the virus than another. COVID Super Spreader.

From rocket propulsion … to sneeze propulsion! These mechanical engineers are adapting their skills in the fight against COVID.

“Fluid properties drive how well things turn into aerosols,” explained Michael Kinzel, assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at University of Central Florida.

In their study, researchers used computer-generated models with intricate geometry to numerically simulate different sneezes.

So, what makes you a super spreader? It turns out age and gender. Young men are the most likely to spread COVID because of their thin saliva that can linger in the air. Also, a full set of teeth can actually cause sneezes to go much farther.

“You can think of this in the context of a hose, a garden hose, and if you stick your thumb over it, it leads a spray that goes out much farther than without,” illustrated Professor Kinzel.

Congestion can also cause sneezes to increase in velocity. The study showed that sneezes with a full set of teeth and a stuffed-up nose went 60 percent farther than other models.

“We’re doing this study primarily so that we can engineer this saliva alteration mechanism,” elaborated  Kareem Ahmed, PhD, associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at University of Central Florida.

(Read Full Interview)

The data suggests that new saliva-thickening candy combined with a face mask could reduce or even eliminate the need for social distancing while we all wait for the vaccine.

Now, thanks to this study, the researchers understand the different ways that our bodies can spread COVID and what needs to be changed to slow the virus transmission. The next step is to team up with an independent company to mass produce the saliva-altering candy.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Executive Producer; Sabrina Broadbent, Field Producer; Roque Correa, Videographer & Editor.

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REPORT:       MB #4854

BACKGROUND: COVID-19 is an airborne, respiratory virus that transmits from person to person via droplets in the air. The U.S. has passed 25 million cases and over 429,000 deaths with January being the deadliest month of the virus yet. The virus transmission occurs through droplets formed during a respiratory event (i.e., breathing, talking, sneezing or coughing) that promotes airflow through a network of nasal passages. The airflow then interacts with saliva and mucus forming droplets that are then dispersed. These droplets can then be inhaled by another person who then becomes infected, creating a transmission route for SARS-CoV-2. This occurrence is observed scientifically by examining the nuances of human physiology and fluid properties.


METHODOLOGY: Researchers are examining these properties and have presented a series of numerical simulations to investigate droplet dispersion from a sneeze by varying a series of human physiological factors. A sneeze was chosen as it is the most extreme respiratory event in terms of droplet propulsion in distance when compared to coughing or speaking. The simulations varied physiological factors that can be associated with illness, stress, sex, and dental health of the host. Results show that exposure levels are in fact, highly dependent on individual fluid properties.

(Source:, Michael Kinzel, PhD, Assistant Professor, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, University of Central Florida)

RESULTS: Congestion was actually one of the major factors that increased droplet dispersal. When a host’s nose is clear, it provides an additional passage for the sneeze to exit relieving pressure. However, when the host’s nose is congested, the space in which the sneeze can exit is restricted causing the droplets all to be expelled from the mouth and also cause an increase in their velocity. Similarly, a full set of teeth can have a similar restrictive effect also causing the droplets’ dispersal velocity to increase when compared to models with no teeth. In totality of the model testing of differentiating simulated sneezes, researchers found that the spray distance of droplet expulsion for both a congested nose and a full set of teeth is about 60 percent greater than when they do not. The data suggests that when someone keeps their nose clear by blowing it into a tissue or utilizing a Neti pot, they could significantly reduce the distance their germs travel and spread viruses.





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Doctor Q and A

Read the entire Doctor Q&A for Kareem Ahmed, PhD, associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering

Read the entire Q&A