ASHRAE publishes paper on HVAC and airborne diseases

Paper addresses concerns of H1N1 (swine flu) virus transmission through ventilation systems and suggests control strategies.

September 16, 2009 |

As health and school officials deal with a second wave of the H1N1 virus, commonly referred to as swine flu, ASHRAE has published information on health consequences of exposure to such airborne infectious diseases and the implications on the design, installation, and operation of HVAC systems.

"Newer data suggests [influenza transmission] also occurs through the airborne route, meaning HVAC&R systems may contribute far more to transmission of the disease and, potentially, to reduction of that same transmission risk," said Gordon Holness, president of ASHRAE.

The document addresses the impact of ventilation on disease transmission and the control strategies that are available for implementation in buildings. Airborne transmission through building ventilation systems can be significantly reduced by provision of dilution ventilation, airflow strategies, room pressurization, personalized ventilation, source control, filtration, and ultraviolet germicidal irradiation, Holness said. ASHRAE's other guidance of relevance includes Standard 170: Ventilation of Health Care Facilities, and Standard 611: Air Quality Within Commercial Aircraft.

Since the first reported case in the spring of 2009, the H1N1 virus has spread to nearly 170 countries, resulting in 1,154 deaths and some 160,000 illnesses, according to an ASHRAE press release.

Read the full ASHRAE document.

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