According to study results, half of the air samples from the corridors of the hospital and a fifth from the bathrooms have a high level of coronavirus
- The researchers examined 24 studies from eight countries between January 1 and October 27 looking at COVID-19 and air pollution
- With 25.2%, air samples from intensive care rooms were more than twice as positive for the genetic material of the virus as 10.7% for non-intensive care rooms
- More than a fifth (23.8%) of the samples from toilets and / or bathrooms were positive for viral RNA
- Hallway samples were most likely positive at 56.3%.
According to a new study, high levels of the novel coronavirus can be found in the air in several hospital settings.
The researchers found that a quarter of all intensive care rooms with COVID-19 patients were contaminated with genetic material from the virus known as SARS-CoV-2.
In addition, more than 20 percent of the samples from toilets and bathrooms and more than half of the samples from hallways were positive.
The team from the University of Nantes Central Hospital in France says the high concentration of the virus along with many people in poorly ventilated rooms could explain how frontline health workers get the virus despite wearing personal protective equipment.
The researchers examined 24 studies from eight countries between January 1 and October 27 looking at COVID-19 and air pollution. Pictured: Medical workers treat a patient in the COVID-19 intensive care unit at the United Memorial Medical Center in Houston, Texas on December 22nd
A total of 23.8% of air samples from hospital toilets and baths were positive for viral genetic material, as was 56.3% of samples from hallways
For the analysis published on JAMA Network Open, the team searched for articles related to COVID-19 and air pollution between January 1 and October 27.
A total of 24 studies from eight countries were included, including the US, UK, Italy, China, Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea and Iran.
Air samples were taken from the rooms of hospital patients in and out of intensive care units; clinical areas including nurse wards; HR areas such as changing rooms; public areas such as hallways and main entrances; and toilets and / or bathrooms.
Of the 893 samples taken, 17.4 percent were positive for viral RNA or genetic material of the coronavirus.
At 25.2 percent, air samples from intensive care rooms were more than twice as positive for the virus as 10.7 percent for non-intensive care rooms.
Apart from intensive care rooms, the highest percentage of contaminated samples came from toilets and hallways.
More than a fifth (23.8 percent) of the samples from toilets and / or bathrooms were positive for SARS-CoV-2.
Researchers say this is likely because bathrooms are small and poorly ventilated, in addition to the virus’ genetic material found in stool samples.
“Flushing toilets can aerosolize RNA in small and unventilated toilets or bathrooms,” they write.
In addition, 56.3 percent of the samples from hallways returned positive, with an overall positivity rate of 33.3 percent in public areas.
The random samples from the HR departments were around 12 percent positive.
A total of 19.2 percent of positive samples were found in meeting rooms and 3.9 percent in dressing rooms.
“The detection of high concentrations in staff rooms (i.e. meeting and dining rooms) is consistent with the possible cross-transmission of COVID-19 between [healthcare professionals] during the breaks, ”wrote the authors.
“During this time, face masks are often removed in small areas with no ventilation.”
The team says it’s not clear whether the air contains viruses viable enough to infect humans and they hope to investigate this topic in future research.
“High viral loads in toilets and / or bathrooms, staff areas and public corridors speak in favor of careful examination of these areas to prevent the transmission of COVID-19,” the authors write.
“However, the presence of viable viruses should be considered first as it is a necessary link for the potential for cross-transmission.”