Airflow Patterns Can Significantly Alter Spread of COVID-19 Virus

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Xiaolei Yang

The State Key Laboratory of Nonlinear Mechanics, Institute of Mechanics
School of Engineering Sciences
University of Chinese Academy of Sciences
Beijing, China

hallway-air-flow.jpeg MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: The most important finding of this study is that the transmission of COVID-19 is highly influenced by the airflow and that a slight difference in the airflow can significantly alter the virus spreading pattern in the air. In this study, the change of airflow is caused by a minor difference in the corridor width and the walking speed. However, such a change can also come from other factors, such as the indoor architectural structure, the temperature, the humidity, etc. In many of these cases, the common guideline of 6-feet may not be enough when the influence of airflow is taken into account. Due to this complexity, there is still a gap of knowledge to fill before a safety guideline for different indoor environments can be provided to the public, many research efforts are needed from the fluid mechanics’ aspect.

MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Response: From this study there are two messages for readers to take away.

  • First, 6 feet is not enough for narrow corridors, wearing a face mask is recommended even if you do not see people around.
  • Second, the cough-generated droplets behind a walking person tend to hover at the waist height, so short kids are exposed to higher risk than adults.

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?

Response: In this work, we concluded that the influence of airflow on the virus spreading is significant and large-scale flow structures, e.g., the re-circulation bubble behind a walking person, can significantly alter the pattern of virus spreading. Provided that these large-scale flow structures widely exist in real-world air flow, we would like to encourage researchers to pay more attention to these flow structures and investigate their role in the transmission of COVID-19 for different indoor and outdoor environments.

MedicalResearch.com: Is there anything else you would like to add?

Response: The influence of airflow on the virus spreading is not well understood yet, since both virus and airflow are not visible to naked eyes. However, the flow structure and the virus spreading patterns can be revealed by advanced fluid dynamics techniques. Fluid mechanics can help us understand and control the virus spreading. Our work is such an effort from the fluid mechanics’ aspect. We hope that this study is a step forward for a better understanding of the virus spreading in the air and that it provides useful information for people staying healthy during this pandemic.



Effects of space sizes on the dispersion of cough-generated droplets from a walking person

Physics of Fluids 32, 121705 (2020); https://doi.org/10.1063/5.0034874

Zhaobin Li Hongping Wang Xinlei Zhang, Ting W, and Xiaolei Yang

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Dec 17, 2020 @ 2:12 am

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