Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Studying How Germs Spread

Date:
April 14, 2009
Source:
US Department of Homeland Security - Science and Technology
Summary:
Spit, Anyone? Mark Nicas has given some of his best years to spittle. When it comes to homeland security, knowing how germs are spread is an important factor in countermeasures for potential biological attacks or pandemics.

A girl sneezes.
Credit: http://www.stowe.k12.vt.us/sms/teachers/jgrogan/index.htm

Mark Nicas has given some of his best years to spittle. He builds models – the mathematical kind – of how someone else's slobber ends up on you. The size of the particles, whether they come out in a dry cough or a wet sneeze, their evaporation rate, air speed – these are all complications, reasons why people like Nicas can spend careers piling up academic papers, all the while building up a healthy respect for pathogens.

Related Articles


Nicas, whose day job is at the University of California-Berkeley is one of a team of scientists affiliated with the Center for Advancing Microbial Risk Assessment (CAMRA), funded jointly by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate (DHS S&T) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

"In terms of homeland security, knowing how germs are spread is an important factor in countermeasures for potential biological attacks or pandemics," says Dr. Matthew Clark, Director of DHS S&T's Office of University Programs, who helps fund Nicas' research.

As an interdisciplinary research hub, CAMRA's goal is to help DHS S&T understand the risks associated with certain biological agents, and build a national network beyond the scientific community for sharing those insights.

Statistical predictions about flying saliva may seem like academic caricature. But they have important real-world applications to terrorist biological attacks and deadly diseases like bird flu that can ripple quickly through American cities. Disaster comes from the mouth, warns an ancient Chinese proverb on the dangers of linguistic drivel. But understanding the infectious potential of biological drivel may be the secret to restoring national health in a pandemic.

"When you get on an airplane, it's always best to sit at least three rows from a coughing person," said Nicas. "You don't know what they have."

Nicas used a Department of Homeland Security grant to test his airborne dispersion model for large and small particles in a small laboratory.

He isn't kidding about the airplane advice. It's a version of the three-foot rule—common in infection control circles—which says that transmitting pathogens between people through inhalation typically occurs inside of three feet. Outside that range, large particles carrying most of the pathogens fall out of the air quickly. On airplanes, the risk of infection declines rapidly between rows because of cabin design that circulates air within, not between, rows.

You might wonder if all that time spent thinking about germs might make Nicas obsessive about his own hygiene.

"I have a good sense of the risks," concedes Nicas, "probably more than most people. I try not to shake hands with people who have a cold. I tell my son to wash his hands. But I don't Lysol my counter every 10 minutes."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by US Department of Homeland Security - Science and Technology. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

US Department of Homeland Security - Science and Technology. "Studying How Germs Spread." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 April 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/04/090414172921.htm>.
US Department of Homeland Security - Science and Technology. (2009, April 14). Studying How Germs Spread. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/04/090414172921.htm
US Department of Homeland Security - Science and Technology. "Studying How Germs Spread." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/04/090414172921.htm (accessed December 22, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Health & Medicine News

Monday, December 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Christmas Kissing Good for Health

Christmas Kissing Good for Health

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Dec. 22, 2014) Scientists in Amsterdam say couples transfer tens of millions of microbes when they kiss, encouraging healthy exposure to bacteria. Suzannah Butcher reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Brain-Dwelling Tapeworm Reveals Genetic Secrets

Brain-Dwelling Tapeworm Reveals Genetic Secrets

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Dec. 22, 2014) Cambridge scientists have unravelled the genetic code of a rare tapeworm that lived inside a patient's brain for at least four year. Researchers hope it will present new opportunities to diagnose and treat this invasive parasite. Matthew Stock reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Touch-Free Smart Phone Empowers Mobility-Impaired

Touch-Free Smart Phone Empowers Mobility-Impaired

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Dec. 21, 2014) A touch-free phone developed in Israel enables the mobility-impaired to operate smart phones with just a movement of the head. Suzannah Butcher reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Earthworms Provide Cancer-Fighting Bacteria

Earthworms Provide Cancer-Fighting Bacteria

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Dec. 21, 2014) Polish scientists isolate bacteria from earthworm intestines which they say may be used in antibiotics and cancer treatments. Suzannah Butcher reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins