HealthFirst Talks: Safeguarding Our Air against Viruses and other Pathogens

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The COVID-19 pandemic has thrust air quality into the spotlight, particularly in the spaces we inhabit most, such as our homes, workplaces, schools and more.

Fortunately, there are lines of defense against airborne viruses and pathogens. To explore those solutions, Dr. Scott A. Cohen of Bassett Healthcare Network and infection prevention specialist Dr. Fiona Collins joined this episode of HealthFirst Talks.

There are many aspects of an effective strategy for improving air quality – along with many considerations, such as dosage exposure to actually become infected and more.

“Some researchers have estimated that it takes about 300 particles to become infected. Typically, it’s about 2,000 to 3,000 for other viruses. So, if you think about it, it’s really highly infectious,” Cohen said. “Honestly, when we think about this, it really just helps us figure out what we need to do to decrease the risk of getting exposed.”

Because monitoring the air for aerosols and concentrations of the virus is expensive and impractical, the use of proxies as a better benchmark for understanding how safe a space is. For example, outdoor carbon dioxide levels are about 415 million parts per million, mainly due to fossil fuels. Indoor counts can be closer to 800-1,200 parts per million, providing a benchmark that can inform you about a space’s overall ventilation capabilities.

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