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Coronavirus, the role of speech in the transmission of the virus

Coronavirus, the role of speech in the transmission of the virus

April 06, 2020
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Novel coronavirus may be transmitted through direct contacts with infected people, namely handshakes or hugs, through salivary droplets emitted by infected persons that sneeze or cough, or also through contaminated surfaces such as handrails, buttons or tables. This is what the scientists have understood until now. However, research never stops and the researchers are at work to understand the reason of the high infectivity of novel coronavirus and, what is important, if this virus may be transmitted by asymptomatic person with speech.

Coronavirus, does speech play a role in transmission?

According to a study published a few days ago by a team of California University (Asadi et al, Aerosol Science and Technology, 2020), it seems that it might play a role. However, scientists use the word may because they arrived to this result thanks to previous works and observations and, to have reliable evidence, they need other steps that involve other experts. The point is that, as it appears every day clearer, also asymptomatic people can transmit the virus. The problem is that asymptomatic persons, by definition, don’t show symptoms such as cough or sneeze, so, how can they infect other people? Previous researches may give an answer in this case. In particular, they have analyzed what happens when we speak. In a speech we emit aerosols, that are clouds of droplets, smaller than the droplets emitted during sneezing or coughing. Aerosols are lighter and stay in air longer, even for hours, but they are large enough to transport the coronavirus. As a consequence, just speaking with a person infected by coronavirus may be a cause of infection. However, as anticipated, several aspects need to be understood. For example, how humidity and temperature may change the viral load? How much virulent is the virus in aerosol and how long does it result a threat?

Coronavirus, what is recommended by scientists?

On the light of these observations and waiting to have final conclusions, scientists recommend to strictly use social distancing. Moreover, in these days, scientists are also debating about the utility of masks for all the population. This could clearly be an additional tool that, however, should not replace social distancing and hygiene rules such as washing hands with water and soap for at least a minutes and using disinfectant solution with water and alcohol at 60% on hands and surfaces.

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