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      Visualization of sneeze ejecta: steps of fluid fragmentation leading to respiratory droplets

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          Abstract

          Coughs and sneezes feature turbulent, multiphase flows that may contain pathogen-bearing droplets of mucosalivary fluid. As such, they can contribute to the spread of numerous infectious diseases, including influenza and SARS. The range of contamination of the droplets is largely determined by their size. However, major uncertainties on the drop size distributions persist. Here, we report direct observation of the physical mechanisms of droplet formation at the exit of the mouth during sneezing. Specifically, we use high-speed imaging to directly examine the fluid fragmentation at the exit of the mouths of healthy subjects. We reveal for the first time that the breakup of the fluid into droplets continues to occur outside of the respiratory tract during violent exhalations. We show that such breakup involves a complex cascade of events from sheets, to bag bursts, to ligaments, which finally break into droplets. Finally, we reveal that the viscoelasticity of the mucosalivary fluid plays an important role in delaying fragmentation by causing the merger of the droplet precursors that form along stretched filaments; thereby affecting the final drop size distribution farther downstream.

          Electronic supplementary material

          The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00348-015-2078-4) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

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          Most cited references 28

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          Physics of liquid jets

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            Violent expiratory events: on coughing and sneezing

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              Mucin structure, aggregation, physiological functions and biomedical applications

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                Author and article information

                Contributors
                lbouro@mit.edu
                Journal
                Exp Fluids
                Exp Fluids
                Experiments in Fluids
                Springer Berlin Heidelberg (Berlin/Heidelberg )
                0723-4864
                1432-1114
                20 January 2016
                2016
                : 57
                : 2
                Affiliations
                [1 ]GRID grid.116068.8, ISNI 0000000123412786, Department of Mechanical Engineering, , Massachusetts Institute of Technology, ; Cambridge, MA 02139 USA
                [2 ]GRID grid.116068.8, ISNI 0000000123412786, Department of Mathematics, , Massachusetts Institute of Technology, ; Cambridge, MA 02139 USA
                [3 ]GRID grid.116068.8, ISNI 0000000123412786, Fluid Dynamics of Disease Transmission Laboratory, , Massachusetts Institute of Technology, ; Cambridge, MA 02139 USA
                Article
                2078
                10.1007/s00348-015-2078-4
                7088075
                © Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

                This article is made available via the PMC Open Access Subset for unrestricted research re-use and secondary analysis in any form or by any means with acknowledgement of the original source. These permissions are granted for the duration of the World Health Organization (WHO) declaration of COVID-19 as a global pandemic.

                Funding
                Funded by: FundRef http://dx.doi.org/10.13039/100000001, National Science Foundation;
                Award ID: CBET-1546990
                Award Recipient :
                Funded by: FundRef http://dx.doi.org/10.13039/100000001, National Science Foundation;
                Award ID: DMS-1022356
                Award Recipient :
                Funded by: FundRef http://dx.doi.org/10.13039/100000001, National Science Foundation;
                Award ID: DMS-1022356
                Award Recipient :
                Categories
                Research Article
                Custom metadata
                © Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

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