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ICUs without air-conditioning could shield doctors from COVID-19: Study

ICUs without air-conditioning could shield doctors from COVID-19: Study

FILE PHOTO: Medical workers take care of a patient suffering from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of the Yatharth Hospital in Noida, on the outskirts of New Delhi, India, September 15, 2020. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

BENGALURU: Intensive care units (ICUs) at hospitals treating COVID-19 patients should do away with air-conditioning to limit the risk of infecting doctors, a study from a top Indian research institute has said.

Frontline health workers around the world have borne the brunt of the coronavirus crisis. More than 500 doctors have died from COVID-19 in India - the world's second-worst hit nation - as infections near 8 million, straining the country's weak and underfunded public health system.

READ: India coronavirus infections rise by 55,722

"The recirculation of the air by the centralised 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," the study by the Indian Institute of Science in Bengaluru, considered one of the country's best science universities, said.

Reducing recirculation of air and increasing the use of outdoor air can lower the risk of spreading coronavirus in indoor spaces, the World Health Organization has said.

READ: Global COVID-19 cases rise by one-day record of 400,000

Previous studies have suggested countries in hot climates should take care that indoor rooms are not dried out by overcooling with air conditioning, noting that keeping indoor humidity levels between 40 per cent and 60 per cent will help limit airborne transmission of the virus.

Where air-conditioning can be done away with, ICUs could be fitted with fans that 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, the study added.

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

In ICUs where air-conditioning is necessary, the air conditioning system of the COVID-19 ICU can be de-linked from other ICUs and exhaust fans should be installed to pull any infected air for filtration, the study said.

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Source: Reuters/aa

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