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How Air Conditioning Spreads Coronavirus Aerosols Decoded

Scientists have analysed an outbreak of the novel coronavirus at a restaurant in China, findings that reveal how ventilation and air conditioning influence airborne virus transmission risk

How Air Conditioning Spreads Coronavirus Aerosols Decoded
Highlights
  • Ventilation and air conditioning influence airborne virus transmission
  • Findings provide a strong support to airborne transmission: Study
  • The study is published in the journal Physics of Fluids

New Delhi: Using advanced air-flow simulation tools on supercomputers, scientists have analysed an outbreak of the novel coronavirus at a restaurant in China, findings that reveal how ventilation and air conditioning influence airborne virus transmission risk. The study, published in the journal Physics of Fluids, analysed the complex flows that occur when cold airflow from air conditioners interacts with the hot plume from a dining table and the transport of virus-laden particles within such flows.

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Our simulation captures various physical factors, including turbulent airflow, thermal effect, aerosol transport in turbulence, limited filtration efficiency of air conditioners, as well as the complex geometry of the space, all of which play a role in airborne transmission, explained study co-author Jiarong Hong from the University of Minnesota in the US.

While several studies over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic have used computer simulations to assess the airborne transmission of the coronavirus, Hong and his colleagues said few have directly modelled the actual infection outbreaks reported via contact tracing. According to the researchers, the current study is the first realistic case modelled and linked directly with the simulation.

It was enabled by advanced computational tools used in our simulation, which can capture the complex flows and aerosol transport and other multiphysics factors involved in a realistic setting, Professor Hong said.

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The scientists said there is a “remarkable direct linkage” between regions of high aerosol exposure index within the restaurant and the reported infection patterns. They said the findings provide a strong support to airborne transmission in this restaurant outbreak.

Based on the results, the researchers cautioned that there could be two other potential modes by which the virus spreads in restaurants that are largely overlooked – transmission caused by aerosols rising from beneath a table, and transmission associated with limited filtration efficiency of air conditioners.

Our work highlights the need for more preventive measures, such as shielding more properly underneath the table and improving the filtration efficiency of air conditioners, Professor Hong said. More importantly, our research demonstrates the capability and value of high-fidelity computer simulation tools for airborne infection risk assessment and the development of effective preventive measures, he added.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

NDTV – Dettol Banega Swasth India campaign is an extension of the five-year-old Banega Swachh India initiative helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. It aims to spread awareness about critical health issues facing the country. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (WaterSanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign highlights the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children to prevent maternal and child mortality, fight malnutrition, stunting, wasting, anaemia and disease prevention through vaccines. Importance of programmes like Public Distribution System (PDS), Mid-day Meal Scheme, POSHAN Abhiyan and the role of Aganwadis and ASHA workers are also covered. Only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and become a Swasth or healthy India. The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollutionwaste managementplastic banmanual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene

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