Can proper ventilation reduce the risk of COVID-19?

We’re completing the third year of the pandemic. New waves and newer subvariants are news we have become accustomed to hearing. We have also discussed the role of personal responsibility and the multiple ways in which we can help reduce the spread i.e. mask-wearing, practicing hand hygiene, staying up to date with vaccinations and testing upon onset of symptoms. 

So, why is it that proper ventilation is still something we have unconsciously ignored? 

Why is ventilation important?

The Victorian government’s COVID-19 website actually has a very informative page dedicated to discussing the importance of ventilation and how it can help lower the spread of the virus. 

Simply put “Ventilation is important because COVID-19 is airborne. COVID-19 spreads when a person breathes out very small droplets or aerosols that contain the virus. Aerosols can float in the air for a long time and other people breathe them in, spreading the virus.”

“Adding fresh air into a space reduces the number of aerosols in a room and reduces the risk of COVID-19 transmission from one person to another. Good ventilation, along with other simple steps such as face masks and testing, reduces the risk of spreading COVID-19.”

Adequate ventilation in an indoor space should be at the top of the list of control measures. Ventilation reduces the risks for everyone, regardless of other individual precautions.

Poor ventilation and its impact on respiratory diseases in Australia

An article published in The Conversation recently discussed the impact poorly ventilated spaces have had on the population.

It said “In just one year (2017), influenza and pneumonia accounted for 4,269 deaths. They were the ninth leading cause of death in 2017, moving from eleventh place in 2016.”

“The economic burden from all lower respiratory infections in Australia was greater than A$1.6 billion in 2018-19.”

Irrespective of whether one is talking COVID or other respiratory viruses, there is surely a public health benefit to be had from an increased focus on ventilation in our buildings, particularly new ones. 

What are the signs of good ventilation?

The more visible signs of ventilation, the lower the risk of COVID-19 spreading. Here’s what you can look out for when entering an indoor space:

  • Can you see open doors and windows, fans that are on, or streamers moving on air conditioning vents?
  • Is there an air purifier placed in the room?
  • Are there carbon dioxide (CO2) monitors to indicate ventilation?

We can increase ventilation, either by opening the window, or by activating the mechanical ventilation system – basically using any means to get the contaminated air out of the room.

Taking our own pharmacy  as an example. Early into the pandemic, we had installed four commercial grade air purifiers from InovaAir at various points across the pharmacy. Two were placed in the body of the pharmacy, one in the vaccination waiting area and one in the consulting room.

These air purifiers have HEPA filters which offer an extremely high level of air purification and are Australian-made. We continue to follow recommendations from experts to ensure our pharmacy is the safest possible space for both our staff and patients. 

The pharmacy proprietor also has a large system in the living area at home, which is used during the colder months when windows have to be closed and where there are a lot of people in the space, to improve air quality.

In conclusion 

We have a long way to go in ensuring clean indoor air throughout our public buildings, commercial spaces and homes. 

For now, we hope to play our part in raising awareness about this important but often ignored topic. 

Opinions or facts expressed within the content have been sourced from various news sources. While every effort has been taken to source them accurately, the pharmacy, its owners, staff or other affiliates do not take any responsibility for errors in these sources. Patients should not rely on the facts or opinions in the content to manage their own health, and should seek the advice of an appropriate medical professional. Further, the opinions or facts in the content do not reflect the opinions and beliefs of the pharmacy, its owners, staff or other affiliates.

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