Air conditioning in ICUs with COVID patients may put doctors at risk, study says

Intensive care units treating COVID-19 patients may want to consider going without air conditioning in order to protect healthcare workers from contracting the virus, a new study finds.

According to the study from one of India’s most prestigious science universities, researchers found that recirculated air in rooms with coronavirus patients, over time, could be putting doctors and other frontline works at risk, reported Reuters.

India has reported the deaths of more than 500 doctors since the start of the pandemic, the outlet noted.

“The recirculation of the air by the centralized air-conditioning systems is what has led to the significant infection of our committed medical fraternity and has also led to deaths of doctors and nurses,” said researchers at the Indian Institute of Science in Bengaluru.

The study argues that instead of air conditioning, ICUs could implement fans that push air inside, and exhaust fans that can pull out the infected air and treat it with soap-based air filters, or very hot water, before releasing it back outdoors.

“(COVID-19) patients in the ICU are active sources of the virus, and they are constantly expelling particles,” lead researcher A.G. Ramakrishnan told Reuters. “So, if you are not filtering the air, it is making things worse.”

Previously, experts disclosed how poor ventilation can contribute to the spread of the virus and advocated for upgrading filters in AC units.

“In general, the ventilation and filtration, particularly if it’s high-efficiency filtration, are going to be risk-reducing factors,” said Dr. William Bahnfleth, air quality expert and professor of architectural engineering at Penn State University.

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