In the fight against monkeypox, Covid, indoor ventilation is a key tool to reduce the risk of infection

We are facing an ever-increasing caseload of Covid-19, which has reached 20,000 new cases every day. There is also an additional threat of monkeypox, which has been detected in India and declared a global health emergency. Countries like India and the UK have even advised airborne precautions indicating a risk of easy spread through respiratory droplets. Although not as easily as Covid-19.

Masks, social distancing and vaccinations are existing tools that help us fight Covid-19 and monkeypox. One important tool that we as a country have not used is indoor ventilation. Indoor ventilation involves bringing outdoor air in and removing indoor air to reduce the risk of infection.

With an increase in the construction of hospitals with sealed windows, ventilation has decreased. This decrease in ventilation is also responsible for an increased risk of infections.

Ventilation is affected by several factors including wind direction, inlet size, impedance to airflow. The World Health Organization recommends using ventilation along with other measures to reduce infections. This is of greater importance in hospitals and clinics, which have infected and susceptible people in the same complex.

A basic ventilation measurement should be taken and a minimum required ventilation rate should be calculated based on the occupancy and type of people in the facility. In areas where it is not possible to increase the natural airflow, the addition of mechanical airflow devices is recommended. This includes self-contained air purifiers with HEPA filters, which have become very popular in heavily polluted areas in the north of the country. In a country like India, where vector-borne diseases such as malaria and dengue are rampant, there is an additional barrier of mosquito nets, which must be placed over the windows. This greatly reduces the airflow.

Measures such as the use of a fan, which pushes the outside air inside, the change of direction of the flow from the clean part towards the contaminated zone or the most populated areas, the maintenance of at least an area of ​​4 meters from the exit free of humans or even animals is highly prescribed.

Recent research suggests letting the room air out for at least 15 minutes before using it. Regular cleaning of air filters in air purifiers and air conditioners is also very important. Negative pressure machines are the gold standard for hospital rooms with infected patients. A state information and education campaign along with the progressive inclusion of ventilation requirements in building codes specifically for healthcare facilities is the right way forward.

Improved ventilation also has other positive health effects. It leads to a reduction in all other airborne infections such as tuberculosis, colds and chickenpox. The respiratory route remains the most efficient way for a pathogen to transmit and infect a large number of people. We must be vigilant and reduce the risk of airborne transmission of these pathogens.

With increased human-animal interactions, a more interconnected world, and people now living much closer together in cities, the risks of infection increase dramatically. Ventilating our indoor spaces will help prepare us for future devastating infections, which will most likely be spread through the air we breathe.

Harshit Kukreja is Research Analyst, The Takshashila Institution. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not represent the position of this publication.

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