Quantifying the role of airborne transmission in the spread of COVID-19

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American Institute of Mathematical Sciences


There is an ongoing debate on the different transmission modes of SARS-CoV-2 and their relative contributions to the pandemic. In this paper, we employ a simple mathematical model, which incorporates both the human-to-human and environment-to-human transmission routes, to study the transmission dynamics of COVID-19. We focus our attention on the role of airborne transmission in the spread of the disease in a university campus setting. We conduct both mathematical analysis and numerical simulation, and incorporate published experimental data for the viral concentration in the air to fit model parameters. Meanwhile, we compare the outcome to that of the standard SIR model, utilizing a perturbation analysis in the presence of multiple time scales. Our data fitting and numerical simulation results show that the risk of airborne transmission for SARS-CoV-2 strongly depends on how long the virus can remain viable in the air. If the time for this viability is short, the airborne transmission route would be inconsequential in shaping the overall transmission risk and the total infection size. On the other hand, if the infectious virus can persist in aerosols beyond a few hours, then airborne transmission could play a much more significant role in the spread of COVID-19.



COVID-19, airborne transmission, mathematical modeling


Hayden, M., Morrow, B., Yang, W., & Wang, J. (2023). Quantifying the role of airborne transmission in the spread of COVID-19. Math. Biosci. Eng, 20, 587-612.
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