Study says ICUs without air-conditioning might save doctors from Covid-19

(Photo: iStock).
(Photo: iStock).

A new study has found out that Intensive care units (ICUs) at hospitals without air-conditioning could limit the risk of infecting doctors.

The study by the Indian Institute of Science in Bengaluru suggested to do away with air-conditioning at hospitals treating Covid-19 patients, if possible.

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.

“The re-circulation 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 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 Organisation has said.

Previous studies have suggested countries in hot climates should take care that indoor rooms are not dried out by over-cooling 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,” said A G Ramakrishnan, the lead author of the study. “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.