The Effect of Turbulence on the Spreading of Infectious Airborne Droplets in Hospitals

  • C. A. Klettner
  • I. Eames
  • J. W. Tang
Part of the ERCOFTAC Series book series (ERCO, volume 18)


The dispersion of droplets plays an important role in the transmission of disease in a hospital environment. The challenge is that as they move, their properties change due to evaporation, the Wells (Am. J. Hyg. 20:611–618, 1934) droplet-nuclei hypothesis. In this paper we examine the effect of evaporation on their movement within a homogeneous turbulent environment. The effect of turbulence is to significantly increase the transmission distance and spread. These numerical results demonstrate that by reducing the level of turbulence, the potential for spreading diseases is reduced. This is in accordance with available experimental/in situ measurements.


Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Droplet Diameter Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Homogeneous Turbulence Fall Velocity 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



C.A.K. acknowledges support from the EPSRC. EPSRC (EP/G009007/1) supported a one day meeting on ‘Airborne Transmission in Hospitals’ where this work was presented.


  1. 1.
    Batchelor, G.K.: An Introduction to Fluid Dynamics. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge (1967) zbMATHGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Cole, E.C., Cook, C.E.: Characterisation of infectious aerosols in healthcare facilities: an aid to effective engineering controls and preventative strategies. Am. J. Infect. Control 26, 453–464 (1998) CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Davidson, P.A.: Turbulence: An Introduction for Scientists and Engineers. Oxford University Press, Oxford (2004) zbMATHGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Duguid, J.P.: The size and duration of air-carriage of respiratory droplets and droplet nuclei. J. Hyg. 4, 471–480 (1966) Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Eames, I.: Disappearing bodies and ghost vortices. Philos. Trans. R. Soc. A 366, 2219–2232 (2008) MathSciNetCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Eames, I., Gilbertson, M.A.: Bulk settling and dispersion by spherical vortices. J. Fluid Mech. 498, 182–203 (2004) MathSciNetCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Eames, I., Tang, J.W., Hunt, J.C.R., Li, Y.: Murder, death and disease. Math. Today April, 61–64 (2008) Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Escombe, A.R., Oeser, C.C., Gilman, R.H., Navincopa, M., Ticona, E., Pan, W., Martinez, C., Chacaltana, J., Rodriguez, R., Moore, D.A.J., Friedland, J.S., Evans, C.A.: Natural ventilation for the prevention of airborne contagion. PLoS Med. 4, 309–317 (2006) Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Fung, J.C.H., Vassilicos, J.C.: Inertial particle segregation by turbulence. Phys. Rev. 68, 046309 (2003) Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Fung, J.C.H., Hunt, J.C.R., Malik, N.A., Perkins, R.J.: Kinematic simulation of homogeneous turbulence by unsteady random Fourier modes. J. Fluid Mech. 236, 281–318 (1992) MathSciNetzbMATHCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Hathway, E.A., Noakes, C.J., Sleigh, P.A.: CFD modelling of a hospital ward: assessing risk from bacteria produced from respiratory and activity sources. In: Indoor Air. The 11th International Conference on Indoor Air Quality and Climate. Copenhagen, Denmark (2008) Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Hunt, J.C.R., Delfos, R., Eames, I., Perkins, R.J.: Vortices, complex flows and inertial particles. Flow Turbul. Combust. 79, 207–234 (2007) CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Johnson, N.P.A.S., Mueller, J.: Updating the accounts: global mortality of the 1918–1920 ‘Spanish’ Influenza Pandemic. Bull. Hist. Med. 76, 105–115 (2002) CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Leeds Teaching Hospitals Infection Control Guidelines. (2006). Accessed 10 July 2009
  15. 15.
    Marks, P.J., Vipond, I.B., Carlisle, D., Deakin, D., Fey, R.E., Caul, E.O.: Evidence for airborne transmission of Norwalk-like virus (NLV) in a hotel restaurant. Epidemiol. Infect. 124, 481–487 (2000) CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Maxey, M.R.: The gravitational settling of aerosol particles in homogeneous turbulence and random flow fields. J. Fluid Mech. 174, 441–465 (1987) zbMATHCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Nicolleau, F., El Maihy, A.: Effect of the Reynolds number on three- and four particle diffusion in three dimensional turbulence using kinematic simulation. Phys. Rev. 74, 046302 (2006) Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Qian, H., Li, Y., Nielsen, P.V., Hyldgaard, C.E., Wong, T.W., Chwang, A.T.Y.: Dispersion of exhaled droplet nuclei in a two-bed hospital ward with three ventilation systems. Indoor Air 16, 111–128 (2006) CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Tang, J.W., Eames, I., Li, Y., Taha, Y.A., Wilson, P., Bellingan, G., Ward, K.N., Breuer, J.: Door-opening motion can potentially lead to a transient breakdown in negative-pressure isolation conditions: the importance of vorticity and buoyancy airflows. J. Hosp. Infect. 61, 283–296 (2005) CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Tang, J.W., Li, Y., Eames, I., Chan, P.K., Ridgeway, G.L.: Factors involved in the aerosol transmission of infection and control of ventilation in healthcare premises. J. Hosp. Infect. 64, 100–114 (2006) CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Thomson, D.J., Devenish, B.J.: Particle pair separation in kinematic simulations. J. Fluid Mech. 526, 277–302 (2005) MathSciNetzbMATHCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Wan, M.P., Chao, C.Y.H., Ng, Y.D., Sze To, G.N., Yu, W.C.: Dispersion of expiratory droplet in a general hospital ward with ceiling mixing type mechanical ventilation system. Aerosol Sci. Technol. 41, 244–258 (2007) CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    Wells, W.F.: On airborne infection. Study II: Droplets and droplet nuclei. Am. J. Hyg. 20, 611–618 (1934) Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    Wells, W.F.: Airborne Contagion and Air Hygiene. Harvard University Press, Cambridge (1955) Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    World Health Organisation: Practical guidelines for infection control in health care facilities. (2004). Accessed 10 July 2009

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • C. A. Klettner
    • 1
  • I. Eames
    • 1
  • J. W. Tang
    • 2
  1. 1.University College LondonLondonUK
  2. 2.Division of Microbiology/Molecular Diagnostic Centre, Department of Laboratory MedicineNational University HospitalSingaporeSingapore

Personalised recommendations