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Jama Network

Turbulent Gas Clouds and Respiratory Pathogen Emissions

Potential Implications for Reducing Transmission of COVID-19

Lydia Bourouiba, PhD


The current coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak vividly demonstrates the burden that respiratory infectious diseases impose in an intimately connected world. Unprecedented containment and mitigation policies have been implemented in an effort to limit the spread of COVID-19, including travel restrictions, screening and testing of travelers, isolation and quarantine, and school closures.

A key goal of such policies is to decrease the encounters between infected individuals and susceptible individuals and decelerate the rate of transmission. Although such social distancing strategies are critical in the current time of pandemic, it may seem surprising that the current understanding of the routes of host-to-host transmission in respiratory infectious diseases are predicated on a model of disease transmission developed in the 1930s that, by modern standards, seems overly simplified. Implementing public health recommendations based on these older models may limit the effectiveness of the proposed interventions.


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