Sneezing and asymptomatic virus transmission Academic Article uri icon


  • The novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) spread pattern continues to show that geographical barriers alone cannot contain a virus. Asymptomatic carriers play a critical role in the nature of this virus quickly escalating into a global pandemic. Asymptomatic carriers may transmit the virus unintentionally through sporadic sneezing. A novel Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) approach has been proposed with a realistic modeling of a human sneeze achieved by the combination of state-of-the-art experimental and numerical methods. This modeling approach may be suitable for future engineering analyses aimed at reshaping public spaces and common areas, with the main objective to accurately predict the spread of aerosol and droplets that may contain pathogens. This study shows that the biomechanics of a human sneeze, including complex muscle contractions and relaxations, can be accurately modeled by the angular head motion and the dynamic pressure response during sneezing. These have been considered as the human factors and were implemented in the CFD simulation by imposing a momentum source term to the coupled Eulerian-Lagrangian momentum equations. The momentum source was modeled by the measured dynamic pressure response in conjunction with the angular head motion. This approach eliminated the need to create an ad hoc set of inlet boundary conditions. With this proposed technique, it is easier to add multiple fixed and/or moving sources of sneezes in complex computational domains. Additionally, extensive sensitivity analyses based on different environmental conditions were performed, and their impact was described in terms of potential virus spread.

author list (cited authors)

  • Busco, G., Yang, R. o., Seo, J., & Hassan, Y. A.

publication date

  • January 1, 2020 11:11 AM