Besides annoying many soccer viewers, vuvuzelas, the loud, brightly colored horns that took center stage during last year’s World Cup in South Africa, could also be a public health hazard, according to a recently published study.
Blowing in to the horn releases spit particles into the air comparable to a sneeze, the BBC reports. This could be an issue, as many soccer matches and other events where the horns may be used are packed to capacity. If someone sick is using the vuvuzela they could likely spread their illness to those around them, the study, published in PLoS ONE, found.
"When attending a sporting event and surrounded by vuvuzela players, a spectator could expect to inhale large numbers of respiratory aerosols over the course of the event," Dr. Ruth McNerney, one of the study’s authors, told the BBC.
Organizers of next year’s Olympic Games in London are thinking about banning the instruments, but McNerney thinks etiquette in using the horns could be effective as well.
"Just as with coughs or sneezes, action should be taken to prevent disease transmission, and people with infections must be advised against blowing their vuvuzelas close to other people," she said.
During the research, she and her team at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine used a laser device to find out how many lung particles were released as eight participants blew into the horns.
(Photo: Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)