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Impact of ventilation and avoidance measures on SARS-CoV-2 risk of infection in public indoor environments

Ghoroghi, Ali, Rezgui, Yacine ORCID: and Wallace, Ruth 2022. Impact of ventilation and avoidance measures on SARS-CoV-2 risk of infection in public indoor environments. Science of the Total Environment 838 (4) , 156518. 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2022.156518

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Background The literature includes many studies which individually assess the efficacy of protective measures against the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. This study considers the high infection risk in public buildings and models the quality of the indoor environment, related safety measures, and their efficacy in preventing the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Methods Simulations are created that consider protective factors such as hand hygiene, face covering and engagement with Covid-19 vaccination programs in reducing the risk of infection in a university foyer. Furthermore, a computational fluid dynamics model is developed to simulate and analyse the university foyer under three ventilation regimes. The probability of transmission was measured across different scenarios. Findings Estimates suggest that the Delta variant requires the air change rate to be increased >1000 times compared to the original strain, which is practically not feasible. Consequently, appropriate hygiene practices, such as wearing masks, are essential to reducing secondary infections. A comparison of different protective factors in simulations found the overall burden of infections resulting from indoor contact depends on (i) face mask adherence, (ii) quality of the ventilation system, and (iii) other hygiene practices. Interpretation Relying on ventilation, whether natural, mechanical, or mixed, is not sufficient alone to mitigate the risk of aerosol infections. This is due to the internal configuration of the indoor space in terms of (i) size and number of windows, their location and opening frequency, as well as the position of the air extraction and supply inlets, which often induce hotspots with stagnating air, (ii) the excessive required air change rate. Hence, strict reliance on proper hygiene practices, namely adherence to face coverings and hand sanitising, are essential. Consequently, face mask adherence should be emphasized and promoted by policymakers for public health applications. Similar research may need to be conducted using a similar approach on the Omicron (B.1.1.529) variant.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Engineering
Additional Information: This is an open access article under the terms of the CC-BY license.
Publisher: Elsevier
ISSN: 0048-9697
Funders: EPSRC
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 15 June 2022
Date of Acceptance: 2 June 2022
Last Modified: 24 May 2023 17:54

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