You are contagious 24 hours before you see any symptoms of a virus. Dr. Laura Boyd, the primary care physician at Elmhurst-Edward Health Center in Illinois, says you can also shed common cold virus cells up to 21 days after your symptoms are gone.
While this article is about how infections travel it’s also important to understand how long you should be cautious for when you get sick. Let’s talk a little more about how infections travel and how far they can travel between people.
How Are Airborne Infections Spread
The spread of airborne infections is caused by the bacteria or virus that gets stuck on a piece of dust or particle in the air and breathed into your body. Viruses or bacteria can also be transferred through water droplets either in the air or through direct contact.
Droplets can hold active viruses or bacteria for up to 24 hours depending on the type of virus or bacteria.
Symptoms like a cough or sneeze come because your body is fighting off the infection and because the infection wants to spread to other people to keep itself alive.
You can get an infection from inhaling through your nose, mouth, or eyes.
How Far Can Germs Travel
Through the introduction of the Coronavirus, we have learned a safe distance to stay is six feet between the next person. This statement is true if you and the person you are with are both continuing to wear a mask.
But, what if one person is not wearing a mask?
How far can a sneeze travel
A sneeze cannot travel very far if the person who sneezes is wearing a mask. But, how far do germs travel when you sneeze without a mask?
A common sneeze can send over 100,000 germs at the same time and can travel up to 100 miles per hour. The droplets can remain suspended in the air depending on the airflow in the room.
How far can a cough travel
A study done in Singapore looked at how far a cough traveled and how exposed a person was to water droplets in the range of the cough. An average cough can travel 3.2 feet to 6.5 feet.
The study found that a person standing at 3 feet was covered by 65% of the total cough aerosols which are another word for particles or droplets.
At 6 to 6.5 feet the larger droplets with the greatest viral load fell to the floor too quickly to reach a person’s mouth, nose, or eyes.
How Far Can Germs Travel in the Air Outside
Droplets can travel up to 6.5 feet from one person to another. The distance you are standing, however, impacts where and how those droplets fall.
Some viral load can stay suspended on specks of dust in the room. You will however need a large number of micro particles to reach you to get infected. The infectious dose for coronavirus is low that is why it is so contagious.
Types of Airborne Infections
Respiratory viruses are the most common airborne viruses to be transmitted through a cough or sneeze. Common respiratory viruses include influenza (flu) and coronavirus. The common cold is also considered a respiratory virus that affects the upper respiratory system.
Other common infections include Chicken pox, Mumps, Measles, Whooping cough, Tuberculosis (TB), and Diphtheria. Each one travels from the infected person through aerosol droplets.
It has been proven that the use of masks has reduced the passing of COVID-19 as well as slowed the spread of the flu and the common cold. A mask is not the only option.
How to Stop the Spread of Germs
We recently wrote a great article on how to improve indoor air quality. Take a look to better understand how your office can improve air quality.
Another great way to stop the spread is to know what and how germs pass through employees.
Simple Ways For People to Stop The Spread
Simple acts can greatly reduce the spread of germs in an office including:
- Washing your hands for more than 20 seconds
- Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing
- Do not cough or sneeze into your hands or wash them immediately after
- Keep your fingers away from your eyes, mouth, and nose
How An Employer Can Stop The Spread
With the right airflow in a room aerosols from a cough or sneeze can actually be pushed to the ground faster. This further reduces the chance of getting viruses in the eyes, nose, or mouth.
An employer with the right air purification unit can greatly reduce the spread of viruses and bacteria. The aerosols spread by employees would then only be on surfaces and increased hand washing and the use of disinfectant can reduce this number even further.
To get a better idea of the air purifier you need for your office check out the central air system from Pura Air.