Considering that respiratory viruses are spread by airborne droplets, and the novel coronavirus itself is known for being able to live on surfaces for up to several days, the question of its exact transmission routes has become crucial.
A study has revealed that viruses like COVID-19 can move further on the back of pollen from trees, thus increasing the risk of infection in crowded locations.
The University of Nicosia in Cyprus’ computational physicist Talib Dbouk and engineer Dimitris Drikakis developed a computer simulation of a willow tree, an archetypal pollen emitter, and predicted how its grains disperse.
According to the study, the model demonstrated that pollen may pass through a crowd about 20 meters (66 feet) away in just one minute in a gentle breeze, potentially assisting in the spread of virus particles.
According to the research, the 2 meters social distance commonly recommended to reduce the chance of COVID-19 spreading may not always be sufficient. Alternatively, they suggested that restrictions be improved by factoring in local pollen levels, especially in densely populated regions with trees.
On a windy day, the average tree can release more than 10,000 pollen grains into the air, each of which can carry hundreds of virus particles, according to scientists.
The research was inspired by the discovery of a link between locations with high COVID-19 infection rates and the US national allergy map. The team created a computer simulation of pollen moving through the air from a willow tree in the wind using cutting-edge fluid dynamics models.