What makes someone more likely to spread COVID-19 to others?

*Health experts say the severity of a Coronavirus infection, body mass index and age constitute the biggest risk factors in spreading the virus to others

Isola Moses | ConsumerConnect

Health officials have urged consumers to observe recommended measures to reduce the chance that they spread COVID-19 to others, including wearing a nose mask and physical distancing.

But what are some of the more inherent qualities that a person has that makes them more likely to spread the disease?

Researchers from Tulane University in a new study sought to determine just that by looking into which factors contribute to the rapid spread of COVID-19.

Though a few things come into play, the researchers say that those who produce more respiratory droplets tend to have a higher chance of spreading the disease around.

David Edwards, PhD, a researcher, said: “While our results show that young and healthy tend to generate far fewer droplets than the older and less healthy, they also show that any of us, when infected by COVID-19, may be at risk of producing a large number of respiratory droplets.”

As a way of identifying individuals who spread of the fatal disease to others most,  those who have the highest likelihood of transmitting the COVID-19 have been dubbed “superspreaders”.

The researchers’ main goal was to determine what qualities a person has that give them that distinction.

To identify those who pose the biggest risk, the researchers compared the rate of respiratory droplets produced by nearly 200 healthy adults with Coronavirus-infected primates.

They also identified three primary targets that increase the likelihood of spreading COVID-19: body mass index (BMI), age, and severity of the infection.

In the study, participants who fell into one of these three groups were responsible for emitting the most respiratory droplets into the air ─ at a rate that was around three times higher than the average person.

The team of researchers as well discovered that the risk was highest when participants fell into all three categories.

They posited the severity of infection was a particularly big risk factor in the study.

The researchers also found that as the participants got sicker over the course of the study, their respiratory droplets decreased in size.

Though this may seem like a positive in terms of spreading infection, it actually makes it easier for these infection particles to be passed from person-to-person when talking or laughing in close contact.

At the height of infection, consumers produce the highest number of respiratory droplets that are the smallest in size, which is what contributes to the greatest spread of the virus.

Dr. Edwards noted: “We’ve seen a similar increase in droplets during the acute infection stage with other infectious diseases like tuberculosis.

“It seems likely that viral and bacterial infections of the airway can weaken airway mucus, which promotes the movement of infectious particles into the environment.”

These findings were true for both symptomatic and asymptomatic cases of COVID-19, which makes it all the more important for consumers to continue following health guidelines to help to reduce the spread of the virus.

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