Some current studies have established that air-conditioners can blow coronavirus droplets up to 6 feet in air, thereby raising concern about the possible spread of COVID-19 by the use of ACs. Most people are wondering if it would be safe to completely turn off the air conditioning systems in their homes and offices to curb the spread of coronavirus.
In this article, we will be examining the likelihood of air conditioning system transmitting COVID-19.
The issue of coronavirus transmission is a topic that is currently undergoing series of research. There are various ways in which coronavirus can spread:
- Droplet transmission
- Aerosol transmission
Droplet transmission – it’s the most common method of spreading coronavirus. This form of transmission occurs when a virus-filled particle of breath or saliva escapes from the nose or mouth of an infected person during sneezing, speaking, or coughing. The infected droplets spread within a few feet of the person. If these infected particles get in contact with the eyes, nose or mouth of another person, they can pass on the virus to them.
Aerosol transmission – this occurs when an infected person oust microscopic infectious particles which hang on in the air and then is being transmitted in air currents to different people. Aerosols are very tiny, making it easier for them to travel to farther distance and to get deep into the lungs of people when they are inhaled.
Researchers are still deliberating on the degree to which aerosol spread can cause coronavirus infection. Scientists have concluded that contracting COVID-19 through aerosol transmission is more likely if the person is within a closed door.
Therefore, there’s likelihood that the use of air conditioners may be a likely path of the spread of coronavirus. This is possible if the viral particles exhaled by an infected person and then blowing those contagious particles back out in the same room or other rooms.
There are no much published studies that examine the role of air conditioning systems in the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Abraar Karan, a global health researcher at Harvard Medical School said that the study did not center on aeration that much and the air conditioners predominantly re-circulate air in a room or a building and don’t bring in any clean air from outside. From the study, the research team was able to establish that aerosols containing virus can be sucked into an air conditioning system and then circulated around a building, hence leading to spread of coronavirus.
A team of researchers in Oregon carried out a study that is yet to undergo review. The team collected samples from various places inside a hospital’s heating ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system and discovered genetic material from the corona-causing virus known as SARS-CoV-2. This discovery revealed that it may be likely for coronavirus to be spread through HVAC systems.
The research team did not evaluate if the genetic material could cause infection. It was also established that there were no definite coronavirus cases linked with the sample found in the ventilation systems.
There is presently no other proof documenting the prospect of COVID-19 transmission through an air conditioner.
When people are indoors using air conditioners due to the hotness of the weather, there is lower aeration and a greater chance to stretch disease. The fact that you are indoors, with the windows and doors shut, using air conditioners and rebreathing the exhaled air from people makes you more prone to infection. This scenario becomes worse if a person with a confirmed case of coronavirus is in same AC room as you. When an infected person exhales the virus, it can remain in air as droplets and be inhaled by another person, thus leading to an infection.
However, if you are not confined to a room with an air conditioning system but rather you are outside and in proximity with an infected person who exhaled some viral particles, this cannot cause any major infection due to the larger volume of air flowing to scatter and attenuate those particles. This in turn cuts down the risk of spread to another person in close proximity.
The danger linked with the use of air conditioners is that it can generate strong air currents to move virus-containing droplets round a room. Since viral aerosols droplets can move in air currents, it signifies that if you are in a room with an infected person which is devoid of ventilation, even though you are practicing social distancing to keep 6 feet apart at a minimum, you still may not be safe.
It is important to note that in all of this, sufficient ventilation is still better than turning off the air conditioners completely because putting it off may increase the chances of infection. This subsequently highlights the importance of ventilation, whether provided by the air conditioning system or by opening windows.
The possibility of air conditioners spreading coronavirus in the offices is very low, provided there is adequate supply of fresh air and aeration.
You can keep using most types of air conditioners, however, if you use a centralized ventilations system that recirculates air to different rooms, then it becomes important for you to put off the recirculation and use a clean air supply.
It isn’t mandatory for you to regulate air conditioning systems that combine extract air with fresh air and return it to the room as this increase the fresh air ventilation rate. Also, you do not need to adjust systems in individual rooms or portable units as these operate on 100% recirculation. However, it is of utmost importance that you maintain a good supply of fresh air ventilation in the room.
Though there are yet no published studies that have inspected precisely how far airborne coronavirus particles can travel, but earlier study on influenza established that viral particles may travel upward of 30 feet in the air.
The possibility of air conditioners spreading coronavirus is mostly possible in shared public places more than in your home. Note that at home, the possibility of getting or spreading COVID-19 through air conditioning units is less likely than spreading the virus through close contact or making contact with contaminated surfaces.
Proper air quality is vital in protect yourself from the spread of the coronavirus, and you should make it a precedence together with complying to the rest of the CDC guidelines including regular washing of hands under running water, using hand sanitizers, social distancing, wearing a face mask, and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces.