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ALREADY criticised by some for being too noisy, vuvuzelas might also be spreading cold and flu germs, according to a London doctor.
The vuvuzela is likely the most popular item in the country with the World Cup starting today.
But with the flu season in South Africa in full swing, Dr Ruth McNerney of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine told AP that the instrument had the potential to infect those seated near a person blowing a vuvuzela.
"Vuvuzelas have the potential to spread colds and flu as a lot of breath goes through them," McNerney said, adding that they can infect others on a greater scale than coughing or shouting.
McNerney was involved in a recent study on eight healthy volunteers who blew the vuvuzela in order to measure what comes out at the other end. They found that aerosols, tiny droplets that can carry flu and cold germs, were formed at the bottom of a vuvuzela.
The particles are small enough to remain suspended in the air for hours and can enter a person's lungs, McNerney said.
"For ethical reasons, we have not yet tested sick people," McNerney said. "But the potential of a vuvuzela spreading colds and flu exists."
Dr Maggi Soer of the department of communication pathology at the University of Pretoria agreed that it could be harmful, especially because people often share vuvuzelas by taking turns to blow them.
"For me that is not a healthy principle," Soer said.
But Soer was also concerned about another potential danger: hearing loss. In a separate study done by Professor James Hall and Dr Dirk Koekemoer at the University of Pretoria, it was found that vuvuzelas can have negative effects on people's eardrums when they are exposed to the sound for extended periods.
"Wear earplugs to the games," Soer said. - Sapa-AP