Propagation of respiratory aerosols by the vuvuzela

Ka Man LAI, Christian Bottomley, Ruth McNerney*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Vuvuzelas, the plastic blowing horns used by sports fans, recently achieved international recognition during the FIFA World Cup soccer tournament in South Africa. We hypothesised that vuvuzelas might facilitate the generation and dissemination of respiratory aerosols. To investigate the quantity and size of aerosols emitted when the instrument is played, eight healthy volunteers were asked to blow a vuvuzela. For each individual the concentration of particles in expelled air was measured using a six channel laser particle counter and the duration of blowing and velocity of air leaving the vuvuzela were recorded. To allow comparison with other activities undertaken at sports events each individual was also asked to shout and the measurements were repeated while using a paper cone to confine the exhaled air. Triplicate measurements were taken for each individual. The mean peak particle counts were 658×103 per litre for the vuvuzela and 3.7×103 per litre for shouting, representing a mean log10 difference of 2.20 (95% CI: 2.03,2.36; p<0.001). The majority (>97%) of particles captured from either the vuvuzela or shouting were between 0.5 and 5 microns in diameter. Mean peak airflows recorded for the vuvuzela and shouting were 6.1 and 1.8 litres per second respectively. We conclude that plastic blowing horns (vuvuzelas) have the capacity to propel extremely large numbers of aerosols into the atmosphere of a size able to penetrate the lower lung. Some respiratory pathogens are spread via contaminated aerosols emitted by infected persons. Further investigation is required to assess the potential of the vuvuzela to contribute to the transmission of aerosol borne diseases. We recommend, as a precautionary measure, that people with respiratory infections should be advised not to blow their vuvuzela in enclosed spaces and where there is a risk of infecting others.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere20086
JournalPLoS ONE
Volume6
Issue number5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2011

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • General

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