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Biological fluid dynamics of airborne COVID-19 infection

Biological fluid dynamics of airborne COVID-19 infection: a review

Statement by the Lincei Committee on "Ambiente e le grandi calamità naturali"


We review the state of knowledge on the bio-fluid dynamic mechanisms involved in the transmission of the infection from SARS-CoV-2. The relevance of the subject stems from the key role of airborne virus transmission by viral particles released by an infected person via coughing, sneezing, speaking or simply breathing. Speech droplets generated by asymptomatic disease carriers are also considered for their viral load and potential for infection. Proper understanding of the mechanics of the complex processes whereby the twophase flow emitted by an infected individual disperses into the environment would allow us to infer from first principles the practical rules to be imposed on social distancing and on the use of facial and eye protections, which to date have been adopted on a rather empirical basis. These measures need compelling scientific validation. A deeper understanding of the relevant biological fluid dynamics would also allow us to evaluate the contrasting effects of natural or forced ventilation of environments on the transmission of contagion: the risk decreases as the viral load is diluted by mixing effects but contagion is potentially allowed to reach larger distances from the infected source. To that end, our survey supports the view that a formal assessment of a number of open problems is needed. They are outlined in the discussion.

6 July 2020

Submitted for publication in the journal Rendiconti Lincei- Scienze Fisiche e Naturali, on 30 June 2020


Responsibility for the information and views expressed in this document lies solely with the Committee on "Ambiente e le grandi calamità naturali.

The italian version of this document, titled "Problemi aperti nella Bio-fluodinamica del contagio da COVID19", is also available 


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Commissione per l'Ambiente e le grandi calamità naturali