Why singing Happy Birthday can help spread coronavirus

Singing Happy Birthday could help spread coronavirus because of the letter sounds in the song, according to experts from Sweden.

Singing and raising your voice have already been identified as potential ways to spread Covid-19 with hymns banned in church and shouting banned in pubs.

But now scientists have found that the specific song – Happy Birthday – is worse than most.

If a person is infected, their the P in ‘happy’ and B in ‘birthday’ would see them spread the deadly bug further.

Since the start of lockdown the UK Government has encouraged people sing Happy Birthday twice while washing their hands to make sure you do it for long enough.

Scientists in Sweden studied the amount of particles released when people sing in order to understand how it affects the spread of Covid-19.

They found loud and consonant-rich tunes such as the classic birthday tune release a lot of droplets into the air, MailOnline reported.

The study comes months after NHS bosses told Brits to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ twice when washing their hands.

This is because it is good for timing how long you need to do it, 20 seconds, to help stop the spread of the virus.

Researchers carried out the new study following reports linking outbreaks of Covid-19 to choirs singing together.

The team at Lund University got 12 healthy singers and two people with the virus to sing into a funnel.

They sang a Swedish tune called “Bibbis pippi Petter”, which was also repeated with only the vowels left.

The scientists measured how many aerosols and larger droplets were released by using lamps, a high-speed camera and equipment to measure tiny particles.

They found having a lot of consonants in a song is especially risky as it releases more droplets.

In particular, “B” and “P” sounds – such as in “Happy Birthday” – posed the greatest risk.

And the louder and more powerful the tune, the higher the concentration of aerosols and droplets.

Jakob Löndahl, associate professor of Aerosol Technology, said: “Some droplets are so large that they only move a few decimetres from the mouth before they fall, whereas others are smaller and may continue to hover for minutes.

“In particular, the enunciation of consonants releases very large droplets and the letters B and P stand out as the biggest aerosol spreaders.”

But the experts say face masks, social distancing and good ventilation can slash the risk from singing.

Professor Löndahl said: “When the singers were wearing a simple face mask this caught most of the aerosols and droplets and the levels were comparable with ordinary speech.

“Singing does not need to be silenced, but presently it should be done with appropriate measures to reduce the risk of spreading infection.”

The study was published in the journal Aerosol Science and Technology.

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