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GIF Illustrating Just How Far Droplets From A Cough Or Sneeze On An Airplane Can Spread Has People Freaked Out

GIF Illustrating Just How Far Droplets From A Cough Or Sneeze On An Airplane Can Spread Has People Freaked Out
Swell Media/Getty Images

When people check in on the latest virus news they're overwhelmed by numbers: gross figures, net increases, percentages, projections and correlations.

A visual illustration can provide a more intuitive grasp of the situation than a sea of data points.

But some folks recently learned that a visceral understanding can be more of a squirm sensation than a light bulb moment.

On April 20, the Washington Postpublished an article that explored decades of research into the disproportionate spread of illness aboard airplanes and the possible means toward curbing the issue.

The article featured a seven second illustration and it completely stole the show.

The animation shows a quick sequence. Droplets from a faceless sneeze or cough appear at one seat, they spew upward toward the cabin ceiling, spread outward and down again along the curved walls until reaching the floor and rising up among several seats in the cabin.

Then a few seats glow purple. The newly infected have been chosen.

Never have some dancing specks in a psychedelic 80s-style room been so horrifying.

When readers reposted the animation to Twitter, it spread like droplets in a plane.

Some pumped the breaks on droplet-induced panic.

They reminded people of how long we've been flying on planes up until this point.

Of course, now you know why you often catch colds or other illnesses whenever you fly...

Others took the opportunity to share some other illustrations they came across.

These showed microbes on the move in other common public spaces.

Although it's created quite the buzz across the internet, the animation was by no means necessary to keep people away from traveling by air. Several countries have closed their borders to prevent further spread of the virus, and most people across the globe are barely leaving their homes as is, let alone jumping on a plane.

The week of April 20 saw a 66% decrease in scheduled flights worldwide, compared to the same week in 2019, according to

For now, empty seats in the graphic would be most accurate.

The book THE SPANISH 1918 INFLUENZA PANDEMIC: The Deadliest Epidemic in Human History, Its Causes, Symptoms, Out Break And How It Was Curtailed is available here.