The heat should be our ally against the coronavirus, but this summer’s heat will force us to turn on our air conditioners. How much could air conditioning possibly increase the circulation of this virus?

We’ve been talking about it for a few weeks now, but no one has a clear idea yet as to how much air conditioners (or rather, air conditioning) could increase the risk of infection.

Virologists have varying opinions. According to Dr. Ilaria Capua, Director of “One Health Center of Excellence for Research and Training” at the University of Florida (USA), air conditioning can carry the coronavirus and therefore advises in favor of its use with caution. She also proposes that the elderly be careful when they go to shopping malls, in a search for some fresh air.

Dr. Pier Luigi Lopalco, Epidemiologist and Head of Regional Coordination Epidemiological Emergencies Puglia (Italy), is of a different opinion and instead, focuses his attention on the fact that heat stroke is more dangerous, and is also more likely — based on current knowledge.

Several studies have suggested that SARS-CoV-2 can remain in the air for a certain period and can be transmitted through saliva or by tiny droplets. The question is whether it can be introduced from outside into an air-conditioned environment, via an air conditioning system, or whether a split ventilation system can facilitate the circulation of the droplets — and consequently — the virus.

The Italian Society of Environmental Medicine (SIMA), has expressed its opinion on the subject, giving some indications on the good use of air conditioning systems; both in private homes and in commercial environments.

Air conditioner filters

We’ll soon be turning on our air conditioners; it’s good practice, regardless of the coronavirus, to disassemble these filters and clean them with soap and water. Clean the exposed parts of the fan blades with a sanitizing product.

External motors

These are the most exposed to dirt and the growth of fungi and bacteria; especially if they’re found in a humid environment. It’s generally recommended to have this maintenance performed by specialized technicians, using a certified sanitization system.

Ducted systems

These are the most difficult to sanitize and therefore it’s advisable to rely on specialized and certified technicians. Moreover, they are the most present in environments open to the public, and therefore they present a greater risk to the community.

Multi-zone systems

These are also generally very common in commercial environments and offices (and are open to the public), and must therefore be maintained by qualified personnel.

Finally, the SIMA advises in favor of the avoidance of directing the air flows of air conditioners from top to bottom, and especially in the direction of people; also, to ventilate rooms periodically, to allow for air exchange.

As usual, common sense is our best advisor. If an elderly person doesn’t have an air conditioner at home and the temperature in the house is such that they’re at risk for heat stroke, they should try to cool down by taking a shower with warm water. If they really can’t avoid going to a mall (also because of a matter of social contact), they should maintain an adequate physical distance from other people.

This post is also available in: Italiano


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