A growing number of airlines are requiring passengers to wear masks during flights. And a GIF in a Washington Post story shows why.

The startling animation reveals how droplets released by one coughing passenger ― and potentially containing virus ― can disperse to those seated nearby:

An analysis of a 2003 flight with a passenger infected with SARS found the risk of infection was highest in the same row and up to three rows ahead, but two people seven rows away were also infected as well as two flight attendants.

The newspaper reported that researchers were working on ways to limit the spread of germs inside aircraft, but work done now would come too late for the current situation.

“It’s come a little too soon for us,” David J. Brenner of Columbia’s Center for Radiological Research, who is working on using ultraviolet light as a potential germ-killer in airplane cabins, airports, hospitals and schools, said. “If it had come at this time next year, we’d be in a good position to fight it.”

The Post report also examined other methods that could make flying less germy, including changes to the ventilation system and other design alterations. However, it was the accompanying GIF that received the most attention on social media:

Well, the Washington Post's story about how droplets spread on airplanes wins the award for "gif most likely to give me nightmares FOREVER" https://t.co/vwW3w1Ti3v pic.twitter.com/tQSLMRufN1

— 💀 damned sinker 💀 (@dansinker) April 28, 2020

#coronavirus #covid19 WATCH VIDEO 🤢 how far a passenger sneeze travels… “problem is passengers can still breathe in tiny floating droplets from coughing passenger seated nearby-before air carrying those droplets can be vented out of cabin & filtered.” https://t.co/pcCvtjaPD8

— adventuregirl (@adventuregirl) April 28, 2020

yeap, i’ll be road tripping across the country for the foreseeable future https://t.co/bNnp51YTtKpic.twitter.com/DdhJIkQ5Mv

— alex medina (@mrmedina) April 28, 2020

Harrowing visual of how viruses cycle through an airplane flight over and over during an entire flight. It will take so much to reassure frequent business travelers – including academics and international lawyers – that any air travel is worth this risk. https://t.co/pFWbAGziSf

— ProfDrDianeDesierto (@DianeDesierto) April 28, 2020

so i got the AOM member survey where they were like "if travel restrictions were eased would you attend an in-person conference in august"wondering if i can just paste this gif in as my response https://t.co/zsW7M2fY4p

— Lukas Neville (@lukasneville) April 28, 2020

This is terrifying https://t.co/Ryxb2ESODb

— Molly Jong-Fast🏡 (@MollyJongFast) April 28, 2020

Cool cool. (Buys scuba gear for future flights) https://t.co/yrkLecsZ0L

— Roberto Baldwin (@strngwys) April 28, 2020

I've definitely flown with a cold before, and I'm wondering how many people I may have infected. https://t.co/A7ZCArSb9M

— Kendra "Gloom is My Beat" Pierre-Louis (@KendraWrites) April 28, 2020

Wow. Wow. Wow. How germs spread on an airplane. 😷😷😷 pic.twitter.com/YNkCkBBbQ0

— Tyler Herman (@TylerHerman13) April 29, 2020

Also applies to churches. https://t.co/DkQLoLp1sL

— The Hoarse Whisperer (@HoarseWisperer) April 28, 2020

Never flying again I guess.This illustration depicts the spread of COVID-19 on an airplane. pic.twitter.com/Ne0eYjchdC

— Woobie🌹Tuesday (@WoobieTuesday) April 29, 2020

“When you can easily sell your airplanes, you try to defer the problems to the future,” said Qingyan Chen, a Purdue University engineering professor. “Today we found that future is actually 2020.” https://t.co/vxkidpLgs9

— Jennifer Smith (@jensmithWSJ) April 29, 2020

Raise your hand if you want to get on an airplane right now.https://t.co/2Sku8Lf4QX pic.twitter.com/wru7QAGoxD

— Ivan the K™ (@IvanTheK) April 28, 2020 A HuffPost Guide To Coronavirus Stay up to date with our live blog as we cover the COVID-19 pandemic What happens if we end social distancing too soon? What you need to know about face masks right now How long are asymptomatic carriers contagious? Lost your job due to coronavirus? Here’s what you need to know. Everything you need to know about coronavirus and grief Parenting during the coronavirus crisis? The HuffPost guide to working from home What coronavirus questions are on your mind right now? We want to help you find answers. Everyone deserves accurate information about COVID-19. Support journalism without a paywall — and keep it free for everyone — by becoming a HuffPost member today. Download Calling all HuffPost superfans! Sign up for membership to become a founding member and help shape HuffPost’s next chapter Join HuffPost

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