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This One Everyday Thing Could Infect You With COVID-19, Study Says

New research confirms that coronavirus can be spread by talking.
Woman tissue covid

Early on in the pandemic it was established that COVID-19 could travel via tiny respiratory droplets, released when an infected individual speaks, coughs, or even breathes. Now, new research has confirmed that these tiny particles are in fact infectious, and can directly infect others who come into contact with them. 

The new study, led scientists at the University of Nebraska and published in a pre-print version on the website medRxiv, supports the theory that the virus can be spread via speaking and breathing—not just coughing and sneezing—and can also travel a greater distance than six feet currently recommended for social distancing.

Just Breathing Can Spread the Virus

"The infectious nature of aerosol collected in this study, taken with the other lines of evidence presented, illustrates that airborne transmission of COVID-19 is possible, and that infectious aerosol may be produced without coughing," the authors wrote. "Aerosol prevention measures should be implemented to effectively stem the spread of SARS-CoV-2, particularly in crowded settings."

The results have not yet been peer-reviewed. 

On July 7, after receiving a letter signed by more than 200 top medical experts around the country, the World Health Organization admitted that the airborne spread of COVID-19 can occur during medical procedures that generate aerosols—and in other closed settings, including bars, restaurants, and places of worship, aerosol spread "cannot be ruled out." 

 "There have been reported outbreaks of COVID-19 reported in some closed settings, such as restaurants, nightclubs, places of worship or places of work where people may be shouting, talking, or singing," they explained in new guidance. "In these outbreaks, aerosol transmission, particularly in these indoor locations where there are crowded and inadequately ventilated spaces where infected persons spend long periods of time with others, cannot be ruled out."

If this is the case, it would be game-changing in terms of virus-prevention—especially in indoor environments. "Ventilation systems in schools, nursing homes, residences and businesses may need to minimize recirculating air and add powerful new filters. Ultraviolet lights may be needed to kill viral particles floating in tiny droplets indoors," the New York Times pointed out, when the letter was first released.

Donald Milton, one of the authors who wrote the open letter to the World Health Organization and other health agencies, revealed he was "very much concerned about the general public and schools and ventilation in school buildings and in dorms on college campuses and in bars and in churches and where people sing and where people congregate."

Mask Up, Now More Than Ever

This is why now—more than ever—it is important to mask up.  "Most scientific evidence supports that COVID-19 is primarily carried on droplets, which is why social distancing and mask-wearing work," Jaimie Meyer, MD, a Yale Medicine infectious disease specialist and associate professor at Yale School of Medicine, previously told Eat This, Not That! Health

To stay healthy no matter where you live, get tested if you think you have COVID-19, avoid crowds (and bars, and house parties), wear a face mask, practice social distancing (even more than six feet if you can), only run essential errands, wash your hands regularly, disinfect frequently touched surfaces, and to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 37 Places You're Most Likely to Catch Coronavirus.

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