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Shocking video shows aerosol distribution after sneezing on an airplane

Aerosol distribution

(NaturalNews) How far does aerosol matter from an airplane passenger's sneeze realistically travel throughout the cabin? This was the subject of a recent simulation constructed by researchers from the Pennsylvania-based engineering firm ANSYS, which found that virtually all passengers are exposed to the particles, and especially those to the left and right of the person who sneezed.

A time-lapse video showing bursts of multicolored dots plotted on a grayscale model of passengers sitting on a plane reveals that sneeze particles spread to all areas of the cabin rather quickly. To the left and to the right of the sneezer, particles can first be seen spreading upwards, wafting towards the wings and immediately moving backwards once they hit the walls to passengers seated in the next row.

Just a few seconds later, the particles are seen converging and then dispersing more widely in all directions, almost as if they are tiny bouncy balls hitting the walls and changing course erratically as they would if they were thrown randomly in an enclosed room. By the end of the video, it is clear that the sneeze particles have reached every nook and cranny of the plane.

You can watch the video on YouTube:

"Those droplets get picked up by the airflow and get transplanted all over the cabin," explained Robert Harwood, an aerospace and defense industry director for ANSYS, to Popular Science. "They actually spread quite far."

Ebola, flu can spread on airplanes

This computational fluid dynamics simulation provides fresh insights into how contagious diseases like influenza spread, particularly throughout pressurized airplane cabins. By mapping how aerosol particles are distributed at 39,000 feet, health experts will be better able to assess the risks involved with disease transmission.

While the focus is mostly on the flu, the data also sheds light on the potential spread of Ebola, which the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently admitted can spread through the air via aerosolized particles. Since these particles are composed of tiny micro-droplets of fluid, it is definitively possible for Ebola to spread in this way.

"There were outbreaks all over the world, in Asia, Africa, and Europe," remarked Harwood about the infamous 2002 outbreak of SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome), which he says gained rapid momentum as a result of air travel. "The reason it happened so quickly was because people got on airplanes and spread the pathogen."

Following the outbreak, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) instituted a number of mitigatory measures for tracking and ultimately containing diseases on airplanes. But these are questionably effective in light of the new simulation, which illustrates how quickly airborne particles, which can't be filtered apart from all passengers wearing face masks, spread.

Even so, experts say air quality technology on airplanes is improving. According to Harwood, the entire air supply on an airplane is completely refreshed every two minutes. And improvements are constantly being made to address what is continually being learned about not only how air particles spread, but also how quickly they spread.

"Airlines are constantly fighting this trade off: The more systems you put in the aircraft, the more weight you have and the more money it costs," he added to Popular Science, hawking his company's products. "They want the cheapest flight but also for their passengers to be healthy. Our technology is useful because they can see how they can achieve that and improve performance without sacrificing cost."

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