Speech is a potent route for viral transmission in the COVID-19 pandemic, but most people are not aware of how their exhalations disturb the air around them. Further, informed mitigation strategies are difficult to develop since no aerosolization mechanism has been visualized in the oral cavity.
Professor Howard A. Stone’s team documents the spatio-temporal structure of the expelled air flow, its relation to the phonetics of speech, and details how drops form using high-speed imaging. The results help to understand limitations based solely on thinking in terms of social distancing rules, e.g. 1 m for the WHO and 2 m for the CDC.
This work will inform thinking about the role of ventilation, aerosol transport in disease transmission, and yield a better understanding of “aerophonetics” for developing better mitigation strategies to retard the current pandemic and future outbreaks.