British experts say that air conditioning should be turned off to reduce the risk of the coronavirus spreading
Air conditioners that recirculate the same air in a room should be turned off or used with the windows open to stop the transfer of COVID-19 into the air, experts said.
British researchers say those who use air conditioners that recirculate the same air are at an increased risk of contracting COVID-19 if an infected person was in the same room.
According to the Telegraph, there are two types of air conditioners: one that takes in air from the outside and blows it out again and the ‘split unit’, which recirculates the same air.
Air conditioning units that do not have a ‘specific source of outdoor air supply to a room … could be responsible for recirculating and distributing airborne viral particles in the path of users with a social distance,’ according to the Chartered Institution of Building Service Engineers .
Dr. Shaun Fitzgerald, a fellow at the Royal Academy of Engineering, said opening a window with the air conditioning turned on is the best way to reduce the risk.
British researchers say those who use air conditioners that recirculate the same air are at an increased risk of contracting COVID-19 if an infected person was in the same room. The above image is a stock photo of a Daikin HVAC control panel and thermostat
“The recommended strategy now, if you have one of these split units, is to open the window and sacrifice your desire for a cold or cooler environment,” Fitzgerald told the Telegraph.
“If there is a little wind, it will move the air. Switch off the appliance if you cannot open a window. ‘
Investigators in April blamed the air conditioning for the spread of the coronavirus among at least nine other guests who were eating at a restaurant in Guangzhou, China in January.
An investigative article published in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases investigated the incident at a Guangzhou eatery in January where a family had arrived from Wuhan – the city where the Covid-19 pandemic began.
Researchers say that a member of that family had an asymptomatic condition, and just two weeks later, the patient, along with nine others, including members of their family, and two other groups at nearby tables in the restaurant, all fell ill with the virus.
The affected tables in the windowless room were about a meter apart, as the authors claim that the most likely cause of this outbreak was droplet transfer.
However, they say that droplets remain in the air for only a short time and travel only short distances.
Therefore, they concluded that the air conditioner was likely to have spread the virus further between the affected tables.
As of Saturday, more than 3.2 million Americans have been infected with COVID-19. More than 134,000 of these died.
The number of cases has soared in the American Sun Belt, where temperatures are usually the highest.
Experts are divided on whether the coronavirus can be spread through floating airborne drops, although the World Health Organization acknowledged that this was possible. The above image shows a woman wearing a face mask on July 6 in Miami Beach, Florida
British researchers’ conclusion on air conditioners comes amid a heated debate among experts on how easily coronavirus can be transmitted by air.
The Geneva-based World Health Organization acknowledged this week that the new coronavirus can spread through tiny droplets floating in the air, a nod to more than 200 aerosol science experts who publicly complained that the UN organization had not warned the public about this risk.
Still, WHO is still calling for more definitive evidence that the new coronavirus, which causes the respiratory disease COVID-19, can be transmitted by air, a trait that would align it with measles and tuberculosis and require even more stringent measures for its distribution.
“The WHO slow motion on this issue is unfortunately slowing control over the pandemic,” said Jose Jimenez, a chemist from the University of Colorado, who signed the public letter urging the agency to change direction .
Jimenez and other aerosol transmission experts have said that the WHO is too insistent that germs are spread primarily through contact with an infected person or object.
That idea was a foundation of modern medicine and explicitly rejected the outdated miasma theory that emerged in the Middle Ages and postulated that toxic, smelly fumes consisting of decaying material caused diseases like cholera and black death.
“It is part of early 20th century medical culture. To accept that something was in the air requires this very high level of evidence, ” says Dr. Donald Milton, an aerobiologist from the University of Maryland and lead author of the open letter.
Such evidence could relate to studies in which laboratory animals become ill from exposure to the virus in the air, or studies that show viable virus particles in air samples – a level of evidence not required for other forms of transmission such as contact with contaminated surfaces, the letter signatories said.
The WHO needs such proof because it advises countries of every income and resource level to take more drastic measures against a pandemic that has killed more than 550,000 people worldwide, with more than 12 million confirmed infections.
For example, hospitals should provide more medical personnel with heavy N95 respirators – personal protective equipment that is already in short supply – and companies and schools should improve ventilation systems and always wear masks indoors.
“It would affect our entire way of life. And that’s why it’s a very important question, ” says Dr. John Conly, an infectious disease expert from the University of Calgary who is part of the WHO expert group who advises on coronavirus guidelines.
Conly said the studies so far have not found viable virus particles floating in the air.
“I want to see evidence in those fine mists in my mind,” said Conly.
The latest WHO guideline, released Thursday, called for more research into the transmission of aerosols in the coronavirus, which he said has “not been demonstrated.”
The agency also reiterated a firm limitation on the size of infectious droplets emitted from coughing and sneezing, noting that most larger drops are unlikely to travel any further than a meter (3.3 feet) – the basis for their guidelines for social distances of one meter.
Milton and others have said that larger particles spread much further.
Conly and others claim that if the virus were really like measles in the air, there would have been many more cases.
“Wouldn’t we literally see billions of things worldwide? That’s not the case, ”said Conly.
WHO spokeswoman, Dr. Margaret Harris, dismissing critics’ claim that the agency is biased against the idea of aerosol transmission, said it recognized the possibility of airborne transmission during medical procedures from the outset of the pandemic.
Harris said it is “entirely possible” that aerosolization is a factor in some so-called super-spreading events where an infected person infects many others at close quarters.
Many of these events have occurred in places like night clubs where people are packed together and are unlikely to be careful to protect themselves or others from infection.
“Most of the super-spreading events have happened in indoor places with poor ventilation and crowds, where it’s very difficult for people to distance themselves socially,” said Harris.
Therefore, the agency said, Harris urged, to investigate “what really happened in these clusters and what the major factors were.”