Why wearing a mask for protection against coronavirus works from an aerosol science perspective


ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10)- Knowing the science behind how viruses are spread can help people understand why wearing a mask and social distancing prevents spread of the coronavirus. Terms such as “droplets” may not have any meaning to someone who doesn’t understand the significance of them.

Droplets, their size, and how they react in the environment provide insight into why it’s important to reduce the amount of them released through coughing and sneezing but as well as breathing and talking. Hence why wearing a mask, even when people are asymptomatic is a good protocol. That science combined with the etiology of the coronavirus provides a much better picture of why protection in the form of a mask and social distance keeping is vital.

Clarkson University Mechanical and Aeronautical Engineering Distinguished Professor, Suresh Dhaniyala, does research on airborne particles which include human secreted droplets. He says aerosol science and the hardiness of the coronavirus to persist on surfaces after released from the respiratory system is why the virus is worrisome particularly in a closed environment.

Dhaniyala explains that the process of releasing droplets begins in the lungs and is similar to a bursting bubble. The bubble bursts during respiration when people are breathing or speaking normally and those droplets are expelled into the air. When a person coughs or sneezes the length those droplets carry is much further. In some cases, they can carry up to eight feet.

The cough from someone healthy expels droplets farther than someone who is sick. However, it stands to reason if an asymptomatic carrier of the coronavirus coughs those germs will be expelled much farther than someone sick with the virus. This is why wearing a mask, even if you don’t feel sick, is important Dhaniyala says. A mask, even if it’s not an N95, prevents some, not all, droplets from getting into the air but it does reduce the risk of spreading coronavirus.

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