As the lockdown eases, a number of workplaces are considering restarting operations. However, they will have to ensure there are measures in place to protect their employees. As part of these measures, some people are asking if air filtration can help prevent the spread of Covid-19.
This question is a controversial one, as experts believe it can only protect users from viruses that are airborne, and not the ones that have landed on a surface. However, the use of air filtration can be used in your overall strategy to combat the spread of infection, combining it with personal hygiene and sanitation of the environment.
What is Coronavirus?
The Coronavirus is a part of the RNA virus group. It’s a group of viruses that, you might be surprised to learn, also includes the virus that causes the common cold. However, Covid-19 is a novel coronavirus (‘novel’ meaning ‘new’), and like others in the group, affects our respiratory system.
Unlike bacteria, which can also spread and cause diseases, viruses need a host in order to replicate or multiply. These are some of the simplest forms of life, with an RNA virus simply consisting of an RNA core covered with a sheath of fat. In fact, most viruses outside a host may be considered non-living for all intents and purposes as they cannot reproduce.
Why Use Air Filtration?
Using recommended air filtration systems has been shown to slow down the spread of the measles virus as well as the influenza virus. However, it is important to note that this was only in conjunction with other preventative measures, and not as the primary method.
Having said that, using the right air filtration system can also protect your workers from harmful fumes and dust that might be prevalent in your workplace. With constant exposure, these pollutants and contaminants can cause long-term health problems, including occupational asthma.
As we know, having a compromised respiratory system can increase a person’s chances of getting infected with the Coronavirus. This means that protecting workers from irritants that could cause respiratory issues could also be helpful in keeping them that much safer from the virus.
How Does Air Filtration Help with Disease Prevention?
As we mentioned earlier, air filtration alone does not keep you safe from viruses. We at VODEX would like to stress on this point, in case people get the wrong idea. However, it can be a part of your overall infection prevention strategy as it can capture airborne viruses so that they don’t settle on surfaces or people.
Air filtration systems with High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters can remove at least 99.95% of particles 0.3 micrometres in size, as well as particles larger and smaller than that.
While viruses, as well as bacteria, tend to be smaller in size, with viruses ranging around 0.125 micrometres, they ‘travel’ on tiny moisture droplets when someone infected coughs or sneezes. These droplets are usually around 1 micron and are easily filtered out of the air.
Again, while this works in theory, in practical terms, the first thing is for the virus to actually be in the air, and second, the air filtration system needs to consistently filter enough air to keep the concentration of the virus in control.
What Kind of Air Filtration System Would You Require?
The kind of air filtration system for your workplace would depend on the level of risk.
High-risk activities include most affected workplaces with high density and high risk of infection, like laboratories, quarantine areas, and containment units.
For such high-risk applications, you would need HEPA filters of class H13 or higher as well as the required containment equipment.
Medium-risk areas include medical facilities, and areas where large numbers of people congregate, like schools, airports, and public areas. These areas have a high risk of exposure due to a potentially high concentration of the virus.
Depending on the level of concentration, such areas need HEPA filtration systems but can make do with Efficient Particulate Air (EPA) filters of class E12 or higher.
These are areas with a low risk of infection, like your home, small offices, and areas for personal use. Such areas should ideally have EPA filters or ePM1 filters of class E10 or higher.
What Else Can You Do to Prevent the Spread of the Virus?
As we keep reiterating, air filtration alone may not be completely effective at keeping the virus from spreading. Here is a list of things you need to do in order to reduce the risk of infection in your workplace.
Wash Your Hands
While this might seem like the simplest (and most repeated) instruction, washing your hands frequently remains the best way of controlling the spread of infection. Since the virus is simply a strand of RNA covered with a lipid (or fatty) layer, using soap can help dissolve the fat, effectively killing the virus. Of course, you would know by now that you need to scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds for this to be effective.
Avoid Touching Your Face
Coronavirus, and most other viruses, cannot break through your skin to enter your body. They need to reach your nose or eyes in order to enter your nasal passage in order to infect you. While washing your hands can help kill the virus, not touching your face helps you prevent them from getting inside your body to cause an infection.
Cover Your Mouth and Nose When Coughing or Sneezing
As you know, you could be a carrier without showing any symptoms. In order to stop the spread of the virus, cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze. This will prevent the moisture droplets from getting airborne and either landing on a person’s face or on a surface from where it can be picked up.
Even though you may take all the precautions, it is still possible that the virus does get airborne, eventually landing on the surfaces in your workplace. Here, it can survive for up to three days. This means anyone touching these surfaces in that time could risk getting infected. This is why it is essential to sanitise all surfaces frequently to stop the spread of infection.
Keep Air Filters Clean
Since HEPA air filters catch particles, they can become saturated and need to be replaced. Keeping these filters clean and replacing them at the appropriate time can be essential for preventing the spread of infection.
At VODEX, we strive to keep workplaces safe for everyone. If you are unsure about what kind of air filtration will help prevent the spread of infection in your business, get in touch with us. We will help you make the best choice for you and your employees.