Corona thoughts – aerosols

Every Wednesday, for the past three years, I’ve been running Chinese-English translation events. Yesterday’s text was about face masks, speculating why westerners don’t wear them. This word popped up in a sentence, ‘气溶胶’ – translating as ‘aerosol’.

Earlier that day, I had come across a picture showing a primary school in Taiwan. Kids isolated at their desk, with yellow plastic around their desk. Each in their own little bubble of air.

200309-taiwan-coronavirus-mc-902_d4c55e71f551e45d144f6d313b8bb3a1.fit-560w.jpg

Late in the evening, on my final corona-Facebook check, I came across this in a friend’s post: “NEVER shake used or unused clothing, sheets or cloth. While it is glued to a porous surface, it is very inert and disintegrates only between 3 hours (fabric and porous), 4 hours (copper, because it is naturally antiseptic; and wood, because it removes all the moisture and does not let it peel off and disintegrates). ), 24 hours (cardboard), 42 hours (metal) and 72 hours (plastic). But if you shake it or use a feather duster, the virus molecules float in the air for up to 3 hours, and can lodge in your nose.”

It was a bit of a joke, in high school, to feel grossed out that we breathe the same air. That it goes in my lungs, then out, then into yours – whether I consent or not. With Covid-19, this came home. I noticed myself, the rare times I’ve been out this week, dodging people. As I replay those encounters in my head now, I imagine each of those passers by leaving a trail of aerosol, and how I stepped right into it. I imagine the mist of viral dust floating through the streets, like bushfire smoke, like John Carpenter’s Fog.

One thought on “Corona thoughts – aerosols

  1. “But if you shake it or use a feather duster, the virus molecules float in the air for up to 3 hours, and can lodge in your nose.”

    There is absolutely ZERO evidence (so far) of this being true under general conditions. This is currently misinformation and should be stopped. It is confusing to add this to what should be simple and easy-to-follow procedures while we are increasingly isolated.

    Yes, three hours in the air is possible. But NO – NOT BY SHAKING OUT YOUR CLOTHES. By using SPECIAL MACHINES to create SPECIALISED AEROSOL CONDITIONS such as using very specialised medical equipment or the machinery used in the original study (see below).

    Shaking your clothes will do NO SUCH THING.

    The blurb your friend posted has been copy-pasted around a lot and usually comes with a claim it’s from John Hopkins University. It’s not. It is someone adding made-up recommendations to real publications and passing it off as official.

    Here is the original post from JHU: https://hub.jhu.edu/2020/03/20/sars-cov-2-survive-on-surfaces/. But even then it only quotes GENERALISED finding from a study which is VERY SPECIFIC.

    Here is the ORIGINAL editor guidance for that study in that blog post from JHU (NOT original research) that everyone is attempting to misinterpret:

    Aerosol and Surface Stability of SARS-CoV-2 as Compared with SARS-CoV-1
    https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMc2004973

    It is clearly stated the experimental conditions were “generated with the use of a three-jet Collison nebulizer and fed into a Goldberg drum to create an aerosolized environment.”

    Shaking your clothes does absolutely nothing similar to a three-jet Collison nebulizer.

    Recently, related articles were about the WHO upgrading procedures for MEDICAL STAFF who are using specialised equipment that GENERATE AEROSOL CONDITIONS.

    NOT about it being a general case of it just being airborne for THREE HOURS under regular conditions.

    [Check: WHO considers updated procedures due to AEROSOL inducing conditions: https://www.cnbc.com/amp/2020/03/16/who-considers-airborne-precautions-for-medical-staff-after-study-shows-coronavirus-can-survive-in-air.html%5D

    Let’s not spread unnecessary fear through misinformation. The isolation is hard enough without people making things up. We need things to be as simple and clear as possible so we have a chance of sticking to useful procedures. People have a hard enough time remembering to wash their hands let alone complicating things with information that doesn’t help.

    Especially the type caused by misinterpreting well-meaning research into helping our health workers stay as healthy as possible.

    I hope this draws your friend’s attention to this comment and that they would seriously consider making a correction to their post.

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