Dear Ms. Scientist,
What makes the recent measles outbreak at Disneyland so contagious?
All it takes is one person standing in line who couldn’t stop coughing and sneezing to infect 90 percent of those susceptible also standing in line. The virus is contagious for two hours in the air, like in an enclosed ride such as It’s a Small World, or on the surface of an object, like a seat of a ride. Measles is also most contagious days before the hallmark rash appears. The virus is transmitted by aerosol droplets or direct contact and infects the respiratory tract, causing fever, coughing, sneezing and itchy eyes, before disseminating around the body which causes the extensive rash. Therefore, the first case at Disneyland may not have known they had measles and instead just the flu. The live attenuated measles vaccine has higher effectivity than any other vaccine. Therefore, if you are vaccinated, it is safe to visit Disneyland. However, unimmunized Disneyland guests are at risk, like infants who are too young to get vaccinated and international travelers from places with unsuccessful vaccine programs.
Dear Ms. Scientist,
Why do our noses run when it’s cold out?
There are two parts to these nasal waterfall spectacles. The first part is the body’s response to cold air. Since cold air is typically dry, the nose needs to optimize it before reaching the lungs by warming and humidifying it. Reflexes in the nose respond by putting the gas on fluid production so the air can pick up more moisture. The second part is while exhaling. As the warm, humid air from the lungs reaches the colder tip of the nose, the air cools and cannot hold as much moisture. So the water condenses inside the nose before being released into the environment. Don’t forget your tissues on your way around campus today!
Ask Ms. Scientist is written by Corinne Thornton. If you have a burning science question you want her to answer, email it to firstname.lastname@example.org.