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Air conditioning in ICUs with coronavirus patients putting doctors at risk, study claims

A study out of India, where upwards of 7.5 million people have contracted the novel coronavirus, suggests that redesigning intensive care units so that they do not have air conditioning would better protect health care and frontline workers.

The researchers suggest that the coronavirus-infected air surrounding a patient in ICU is circulated, and over time, the viral load increases putting anyone who is in that room at an increased risk for exposure.

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According to Reuters, upwards of 500 doctors have died from coronavirus in India.

The study, conducted by researchers at the Indian Institute of Science in Bengaluru, argues that using fans to force air inside and exhaust fans to pull the infected air and treat it with soap-based air filters or very hot water before releasing it outside would be a more efficient way to limit coronavirus spread in ICU wards.

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“In this case, the fundamental change that we are suggesting for ICUs taking care of COVID-19 or other such contagious patients is that there must be a swift draft of air through the air in a single direction,” the researchers wrote. “On the entry side of the air, there must be active pushing in of the air with powerful fans. On the exit site of the air, there must be powerful exhaust fans pulling the air out, and we must design in such a way that this air passes through a tube and bubbles through multiple chambers of a solution of simple soap or sodium hypochlorite to assure that any virus in the air gets disintegrated or disinfected by the time the air finally comes out of the multiple bubbling chambers.”

The authors said that soap proved sufficient when dealing with H1N1 and Ebola. They also noted that keeping senior doctors over the age of 60 away from coronavirus patients will help keep health care workers healthy.

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“The current outbreak has once again made us realize the importance of health care workers as the most valuable resource and it is of utmost priority to provide them effective PPEs as well as a safe and disinfected environment and ensure their security,” the authors noted. “We appeal to engineering design researchers to work on an innovative and effective design for a soap-based air filter in order to treat the infected air in ICU and COVID-19 wards.”



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