04:29am Monday 23 October 2017

Coughs and sneezes spread diseases, and so might the vuvuzela – think before you blow!

Vuvuzelas are an integral part of the game in South Africa. They are plastic horns blown with great gusto to create a noise sometimes described as a raging elephant. They create a deafening but exhilarating atmosphere at soccer games across Africa.

To blow the vuvuzela takes sustained lung power. The trumpets are typically just over 60 centimetres (2 ft) long. When scientists in London measured what was coming out of the end they found very high air flows and extremely large numbers of tiny droplets called aerosols. These particles could carry flu or cold germs if someone with an infection blows the vuvuzela. They are small enough to stay suspended in the air for hours and if breathed in can enter into the airways of the lungs and infect someone new.

The scientists are reminding fans that if they have a cold or cough or any kind of respiratory infection then they should avoid sharing it with others at the World Cup.

Dr Ruth McNerney from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine says: “We measured what happens when healthy people blow the vuvuzela and were astonished at the numbers of aerosols formed. If someone with a chest or throat infection uses the vuvuzela in a crowded place then they could spread their infection to people around them. We ask fans to enjoy themselves but to be considerate to others. Wait until your coughs and colds have gone away before blowing your vuvuzelas. If your cough does not disappear then get tested and get treated”.

This study was done at the Healthy Infrastructure Research Centre, Department of Civil, Environmental & Geomatic Engineering, University College London by Dr Ka-Man Lai in collaboration with Dr Ruth McNerney of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.

Further details from: Dr Ruth McNerney , London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine +44 (0)20 79272346 or Dr Ka-Man Lai. +44 (0) 20 76791368

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