The Department of Energy (DOE) Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory launches study to help understand risk levels.
The new study is designed to provide a better understanding of how airborne infectious diseases spread and the best measures to mitigate those risk. COVID-19 has brought more attention to the transmission of airborne viruses and not just COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2) but other airborne contagions which could be harmful inside building.
Paramount to the study is quantitatively identify risk of a person inhaling an infectious virus while in the same room or area of one or more infected people. The team at Berkeley Lab’s Indoor Environment research group are experts in field of ventilation and movement of air which will help guide strategies to remove contaminants in the air.
As people get back to work a safe working environment is important and this is why more research is needed to determine ventilation requirements and whether extra filtration is needed and where in the building.
The team at the laboratory will use a combination of simulations and experiments to determine the transport of droplets and aerosols within and between rooms. It needs to be determined whether an occupant is disposed to capturing an infection via the movement of aerosols. Earlier studies have shown that respiratory fluids are not only expelled when a person sneezes or coughs, but also when they talk, sing and in some situations when breathing normally. “There’s research now that the novel coronavirus actually is very stable in aerosols. And there is previously published evidence of long-range airborne transmission of other viruses, including the SARS virus in 2003,” Brett Singer, head of Berkeley Lab’s Indoor Environment research group. “Understanding how much virus remains airborne is essential to assessing the risk and identifying effective controls.”
As-yet unknown portion of the aerosols get mixed into the air in the room and eventually into other rooms in the building, representing a potential additional transmission route. The focus of this research is to assess that risk which should help to determine the best products and technology used in the HVAC industry to prevent potential spread.
The team will be looking to explore factors such as occupant density, ventilation, air cleaning, and air movement within homes, schools, or businesses that are potential transmission sites to learn how to control the airborne infectious diseases. This is not just for SARS-CoV-2 but for other airborne diseases like the measles and tuberculosis which can remain active and infectious for hours.
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