Aerosol emission from playing wind instruments and associated risk of COVID-19 infection during musical performances

This article was originally published here

Sci Rep. 2022 May 21;12(1):8598. doi: 10.1038/s41598-022-12529-2.


The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in restrictions in all kinds of musical activities. Airborne transmission of SARS-CoV-2 requires risk assessment of playing wind instruments in various situations. Previous studies have focused on short-distance transmission, while the risk of long-distance transmission has not been assessed. The latter requires knowledge of the aerosol emission rates from the wind instrument set. We measured aerosol concentrations in a hermetically sealed chamber of 20 m3 in the operating room resulting from 20 min of standardized playing of wind instruments (19 flutes, 11 oboes, 1 clarinet, 1 trumpeter). We calculated the aerosol emission rates showing a uniform distribution for both groups of instruments. Aerosol emissions from playing a wind instrument ranged from 11 ± 288 particles/second (P/s) to 2535 ± 195 P/s, expected value ± standard deviation of uncertainty. Analysis of the particle size distributions of the aerosols shows that 70 to 80% of the particles emitted have a size of 0.25 to 0.8 µm and are therefore alveolar. Masking the bell with a surgical mask did not reduce aerosol emissions. Aerosol emission rates were higher when playing a wind instrument than when speaking or breathing. No differences between instrumental groups could be found, but a high interindividual variance, expressed by a uniform distribution of aerosol emission rates. Our results indicate that aerosol emission depends on physiological factors and playing techniques rather than the type of instrument, contrary to some previous studies. Based on our results, we present transmission risk calculations for long-distance transmission of COVID-19 for three typical woodwind game situations.

PMID:35597808 | DOI:10.1038/s41598-022-12529-2

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