A special military-grade infrared camera has been utilized to visualize the risks of the airborne spread of the COVID-19 virus.
Winter is approaching while the United States continues to deal with the huge surge in new infections of COVID-19. So far, over 288,000 people in the US have already succumbed to the viral infection which public health officials are now saying is transmissible through the air.
According to scientists, the virus most commonly spreads by close contact. However, according to the CDC or Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, there are certain conditions when people who are farther apart than six feet may still be infected by tiny droplet exposure and the exhaled particles of an infected individual.
They announced this new update regarding the viral transmission last October.
Also importantly, these particles and droplets have been shown to linger and stay in the air for as short as a few minutes up to a length of several hours.
To illustrate the virus's airborne transmission visually in real-time, an infrared military-grade camera was used by The Washington Post to monitor exhaled breaths.
Various experts in epidemiology, virology, and engineering lent their support to the project of using exhalation as a means of showing the potential risk of viral transmission in different situations and settings.
Using a special camera
According to mechanical engineer and Johns Hopkins University professor Rajat Mittal, the resulting images were very revealing. Mittal is also a virus transmission expert. He said that the camera shows how two people close together can transmit the virus.
According to Mittal, the visualization presented by the camera is very invaluable. The camera's highly sensitive system can detect variations in the infrared that the naked eye is not capable of seeing.
This technology has traditionally been used in industrial and military applications. One example of its use is in detecting pipeline leaks of methane gas. It was also deployed in 2013 by authorities during the manhunt of the bombers responsible for the Boston Marathon bombing.
Visualizing the exhalations
The camera was equipped with a special filter that targets carbon dioxide's specific infrared signature. This gave the equipment the capacity to map the paths taken in real-time by the exhalation particles that are almost invisible to our normal vision.
Nonetheless, experts say that the resulting footage underrepresented possible potential risks of viral exposure from particles in the air. These particles are capable of spreading farther and lingering longer than exhalation plumes because the particles visible in infrared rapidly dissipate to a concentration level that is too few for the special camera to detect.
The possibility of spreading the virus is dependent on environmental factors like the airflow in a certain area. Sunlight and wind can decrease the chances of viral spreading, as well as behavioral practices, particularly social distancing and wearing masks.
Exposure risk is increased in people who have no masks or are near each other in enclosed places or areas of poor ventilation. Unfortunately, these exacerbating circumstances will increasingly be experienced by more Americans because of the time they will spending indoors in the winter months ahead.
This danger has been amply demonstrated by the illustrations presented by the infrared camera on the capacity of the COVID-19 virus for airborne spread.
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