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1.
Clin Infect Dis ; 76(10): 1854-1859, 2023 05 24.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-20240001

ABSTRACT

This is an account that should be heard of an important struggle: the struggle of a large group of experts who came together at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic to warn the world about the risk of airborne transmission and the consequences of ignoring it. We alerted the World Health Organization about the potential significance of the airborne transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and the urgent need to control it, but our concerns were dismissed. Here we describe how this happened and the consequences. We hope that by reporting this story we can raise awareness of the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration and the need to be open to new evidence, and to prevent it from happening again. Acknowledgement of an issue, and the emergence of new evidence related to it, is the first necessary step towards finding effective mitigation solutions.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , Humans , SARS-CoV-2 , Pandemics/prevention & control , World Health Organization , Societies
2.
PNAS Nexus ; 2(5): pgad142, 2023 May.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-20236372

ABSTRACT

Classrooms are high-risk indoor environments, so analysis of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) transmission in classrooms is important for determining optimal interventions. Due to the absence of human behavior data, it is challenging to accurately determine virus exposure in classrooms. A wearable device for close contact behavior detection was developed, and we recorded >250,000 data points of close contact behaviors of students from grades 1 to 12. Combined with a survey on students' behaviors, we analyzed virus transmission in classrooms. Close contact rates for students were 37 ± 11% during classes and 48 ± 13% during breaks. Students in lower grades had higher close contact rates and virus transmission potential. The long-range airborne transmission route is dominant, accounting for 90 ± 3.6% and 75 ± 7.7% with and without mask wearing, respectively. During breaks, the short-range airborne route became more important, contributing 48 ± 3.1% in grades 1 to 9 (without wearing masks). Ventilation alone cannot always meet the demands of COVID-19 control; 30 m3/h/person is suggested as the threshold outdoor air ventilation rate in a classroom. This study provides scientific support for COVID-19 prevention and control in classrooms, and our proposed human behavior detection and analysis methods offer a powerful tool to understand virus transmission characteristics and can be employed in various indoor environments.

3.
Transp Res Interdiscip Perspect ; 18: 100757, 2023 Mar.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-20245275

ABSTRACT

COVID-19 continues to threaten the world. Relaxing local travel behaviours on preventing the spread of COVID-19, may increase the infection risk in subsequent waves of SARS-CoV-2 transmission. In this study, we analysed changes in the travel behaviour of different population groups (adult, child, student, elderly) during four pandemic waves in Hong Kong before January 2021, by 4-billion second-by-second smartcard records of subway. A significant continuous relaxation in human travel behaviour was observed during the four waves of SARS-CoV-2 transmission. Residents sharply reduced their local travel by 51.9%, 50.1%, 27.6%, and 20.5% from the first to fourth pandemic waves, respectively. The population flow in residential areas, workplaces, schools, shopping areas, amusement areas and border areas, decreased on average by 30.3%, 33.5%, 41.9%, 58.1%, 85.4% and 99.6%, respectively, during the pandemic weeks. We also found that many other cities around the world experienced a similar relaxation trend in local travel behaviour, by comparing traffic congestion data during the pandemic with data from the same period in 2019. The quantitative pandemic fatigue in local travel behaviour could help governments partially predicting personal protective behaviours, and thus to suggest more accurate interventions during subsequent waves, especially for highly infectious virus variants such as Omicron.

4.
Build Simul ; 16(5): 663-666, 2023.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-2324448
5.
Int J Infect Dis ; 133: 60-66, 2023 Aug.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-2315485

ABSTRACT

OBJECTIVES: We compared the risk of environmental contamination among patients with COVID-19 who received high-flow nasal cannula (HFNC), noninvasive ventilation (NIV), and conventional oxygen therapy (COT) via nasal cannula for respiratory failure. METHODS: Air was sampled from the hospital isolation rooms with 12 air changes/hr where 26 patients with COVID-19 received HFNC (up to 60 l/min, n = 6), NIV (n = 6), or COT (up to 5 l/min of oxygen, n = 14). Surface samples were collected from 16 patients during air sampling. RESULTS: Viral RNA was detected at comparable frequency in air samples collected from patients receiving HFNC (3/54, 5.6%), NIV (1/54, 1.9%), and COT (4/117, 3.4%) (P = 0.579). Similarly, the risk of surface contamination was comparable among patients receiving HFNC (3/46, 6.5%), NIV (14/72, 19.4%), and COT (8/59, 13.6%) (P = 0.143). An increment in the cyclic thresholds of the upper respiratory specimen prior to air sampling was associated with a reduced SARS-CoV-2 detection risk in air (odds ratio 0.83 [95% confidence interval 0.69-0.96], P = 0.027) by univariate logistic regression. CONCLUSION: No increased risk of environmental contamination in the isolation rooms was observed in the use of HFNC and NIV vs COT among patients with COVID-19 with respiratory failure. Higher viral load in the respiratory samples was associated with positive air samples.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , Respiratory Insufficiency , Humans , COVID-19/complications , SARS-CoV-2 , Oxygen , Oxygen Inhalation Therapy/adverse effects , Respiratory Insufficiency/therapy , Respiratory Insufficiency/etiology
6.
Sci Total Environ ; 859(Pt 1): 160212, 2022 Nov 14.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-2309676

ABSTRACT

Toilet flushing generates and spread fecal aerosols, potentially leading to infection transmission risk. Squat toilets are widely used in public restrooms in some Asian countries including China and India, and remain to be studied. Aerosol dispersion while flushing squat toilet in cubicle was visualized, while the aerosol concentrations were measured on different surfaces by monitoring fluorescence intensity through seeding simulated fluorescence feces. Flushing-generated fecal aerosols could spread to the breathing zone, deposit on floor, and partitions in squat toilet cubicles, and spread even beyond to the restroom lobby. A total of 0.24 % and 0.17 % of seeded fecal waste deposits on the floor and partition (lower than 0.20 m) for each flush. Aerosol concentration decays rapidly, with 86.8 ± 2.2 % reduction in the second minute after a previous flush compared to that in the first minute. Public toilet users are recommended to wait for 2 min after the early flush before entering the cubicle.

7.
Build Simul ; 16(5): 765-780, 2023.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-2293290

ABSTRACT

During the Coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic, short-range virus transmission has been observed to have a higher risk of causing infection than long-range virus transmission. However, the roles played by the inhalation and large droplet routes cannot be distinguished in practice. A recent analytical study revealed the predominance of short-range inhalation over the large droplet spray route as causes of respiratory infections. In the current study, short-range exposure was analyzed via computational fluid dynamics (CFD) simulations using a discrete phase model. Detailed facial membranes, including eyes, nostrils, and a mouth, were considered. In CFD simulations, there is no need for a spherical approximation of the human head for estimating deposition nor the "anisokinetic aerosol sampling" approximation for estimating inhalation in the analytical model. We considered two scenarios (with two spheres [Scenario 1] and two human manikins [Scenario 2]), source-target distances of 0.2 to 2 m, and droplet diameters of 3 to 1,500 µm. The overall CFD exposure results agree well with data previously obtained from a simple analytical model. The CFD results confirm the predominance of the short-range inhalation route beyond 0.2 m for expiratory droplets smaller than 50 µm during talking and coughing. A critical droplet size of 87.5 µm was found to differentiate droplet behaviors. The number of droplets deposited on the target head exceeded those exposed to facial membranes, which implies a risk of exposure through the immediate surface route over a short range. Electronic Supplementary Material ESM: the Supplementary Materials are available in the online version of this article at 10.1007/s12273-022-0968-y.

8.
City and Built Environment ; 1(1), 2023.
Article in English | EuropePMC | ID: covidwho-2280832

ABSTRACT

The emerging Omicron variant poses a serious threat to human health. Public transports play a critical role in infection spread. Based on the data of nearly 4 billion smartcard uses, between January 1, 2019 and January 31, 2021 from the Mass Transit Railway Corporation of Hong Kong, we analyzed the subway travel behavior of different population groups (adults, children, students and senior citizens) due to the COVID-19 pandemic and human travel behavior under different interventions (e.g. work suspension, school closure). Due to the pandemic, the number of MTR passengers (the daily number of passengers in close proximity in subway carriages) decreased by 37.4% (40.8%) for adults, 80.3% (78.5%) for children, 71.6% (71.6%) for students, and 33.5% (36.1%) for senior citizens. Due to work from home (school suspension), the number of contacted adults (students/children) in the same carriage during the rush hours decreased by 39.6% (38.6%/43.2%). If all workers, students, and children were encouraged to commute avoiding rush hours, the possible repeated contacts during rush hour of adults, children and students decreased by 73.3%, 77.9% and 79.5%, respectively. Since adults accounted for 87.3% of the total number of subway passengers during the pandemic, work from home and staggered shift pattern of workers can reduce the infection risk effectively. Our objective is to find the changes of local travel behavior due to the pandemic. From the perspective of public transports, the results provide a scientific support for COVID-19 prevention and control in cities. Supplementary Information The online version contains supplementary material available at 10.1007/s44213-023-00006-z.

9.
Int J Environ Res Public Health ; 20(5)2023 03 04.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-2275180

ABSTRACT

The health effects of particles are directly related to their deposition patterns (deposition site and amount) in human airways. However, estimating the particle trajectory in a large-scale human lung airway model is still a challenge. In this work, a truncated single-path, large-scale human airway model (G3-G10) with a stochastically coupled boundary method were employed to investigate the particle trajectory and the roles of their deposition mechanisms. The deposition patterns of particles with diameters (dp) of 1-10 µm are investigated under various inlet Reynolds numbers (Re = 100-2000). Inertial impaction, gravitational sedimentation, and combined mechanism were considered. With the increasing airway generations, the deposition of smaller particles (dp < 4 µm) increased due to gravitational sedimentation, while that of larger particles decreased due to inertial impaction. The obtained formulas of Stokes number and Re can predict the deposition efficiency due to the combined mechanism in the present model, and the prediction can be used to assess the dose-effect of atmospheric aerosols on the human body. Diseases in deeper generations are mainly attributed to the deposition of smaller particles under lower inhalation rates, while diseases at the proximal generations mainly result from the deposition of larger particles under higher inhalation rates.


Subject(s)
Lung , Models, Biological , Humans , Particle Size , Computer Simulation , Aerosols , Administration, Inhalation
10.
Building and Environment ; 229:109973, 2023.
Article in English | ScienceDirect | ID: covidwho-2165124

ABSTRACT

To quantify the risk of the transmission of respiratory infections in indoor environments, we systematically assessed exposure to talking- and breathing-generated respiratory droplets in a generic indoor environment using computational fluid dynamic (CFD) simulations. The flow field in the indoor environment was obtained with SST k-ω model and Lagrangian method was used to predict droplet trajectories, where droplet evaporation was considered. Droplets can be categorized into small droplets (initial size ≤30 μm or ≤10 μm as droplet nuclei), medium droplets (30–80 μm) and large droplets (>100 μm) according to the exposure characteristics. Droplets up to 100 μm, particular the small ones, can contribute to both short-range and long-range airborne routes. For the face-to-face talking scenario, the intake fraction and deposition fractions of droplets on the face and facial mucosa of the susceptible were up to 4.96%, 2.14%, and 0.12%, respectively, indicating inhalation is the dominant route. The exposure risk from a talking infector decreases monotonically with the interpersonal distance, while that of nasal-breathing generated droplets maintains a relatively stable level within 1.0 m. Keeping an angle of 15° or above with the expiratory flow is efficient to reduce intake fractions to <0.37% for small droplets. Adjusting the orientation from face-to-face to face-to-back can reduce exposure to small droplets by approximately 88.0% during talking and 66.2% during breathing. A higher ventilation rate can reduce the risk of exposure to small droplets but may increase the risk of transmission via medium droplets by enhancing their evaporation rate. This study would serve as a fundamental research for epidemiologist, healthcare workers and the public in the purpose of infection control.

11.
Building and Environment ; : 109674, 2022.
Article in English | ScienceDirect | ID: covidwho-2068747

ABSTRACT

The classical Wells–Riley equation assumes homogeneity of susceptible individuals and environments to airborne exposure. However, individual susceptibility to infection is mostly heterogeneous, and exposure variability could arise from differences in inhalation rate, spatiotemporal non-uniformity of infectious aerosol concentrations, and the exposure trajectory and time. Non-uniform air distribution results in spatial non-uniformity of infectious aerosol concentrations. The non-uniformity effect is essentially a problem of individual infection probability. Here, we derived a general dose-response equation and a heterogeneous Wells–Riley equation accounting for individual variability in infection probability. The heterogeneous Wells-Riley equation shows the potential of the zone air distribution effectiveness to consider spatial non-uniformity under steady-state conditions. An existing quanta generation rate formula was theoretically justified. The new equation was then applied to a restaurant reporting an outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019, with spatial and/or temporal heterogeneity of infectious aerosol concentrations. Our results show the need to include spatial non-uniformity in outbreak investigations. A hypothetical two-zone setup was used to demonstrate how the inter-zonal distribution of clean air and the inter-zonal exchange flow affect airborne infections. An infector in a poorly diluted zone with the greatest number of susceptible individuals would result in the most secondary infections, whereas an infector in a well-ventilated zone with few susceptible individuals would result in the least secondary infections.

13.
Indoor Air ; 32(8): e13070, 2022 08.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-2005267

ABSTRACT

The question of whether SARS-CoV-2 is mainly transmitted by droplets or aerosols has been highly controversial. We sought to explain this controversy through a historical analysis of transmission research in other diseases. For most of human history, the dominant paradigm was that many diseases were carried by the air, often over long distances and in a phantasmagorical way. This miasmatic paradigm was challenged in the mid to late 19th century with the rise of germ theory, and as diseases such as cholera, puerperal fever, and malaria were found to actually transmit in other ways. Motivated by his views on the importance of contact/droplet infection, and the resistance he encountered from the remaining influence of miasma theory, prominent public health official Charles Chapin in 1910 helped initiate a successful paradigm shift, deeming airborne transmission most unlikely. This new paradigm became dominant. However, the lack of understanding of aerosols led to systematic errors in the interpretation of research evidence on transmission pathways. For the next five decades, airborne transmission was considered of negligible or minor importance for all major respiratory diseases, until a demonstration of airborne transmission of tuberculosis (which had been mistakenly thought to be transmitted by droplets) in 1962. The contact/droplet paradigm remained dominant, and only a few diseases were widely accepted as airborne before COVID-19: those that were clearly transmitted to people not in the same room. The acceleration of interdisciplinary research inspired by the COVID-19 pandemic has shown that airborne transmission is a major mode of transmission for this disease, and is likely to be significant for many respiratory infectious diseases.


Subject(s)
Air Pollution, Indoor , COVID-19 , Humans , Pandemics , Respiratory Aerosols and Droplets , SARS-CoV-2
14.
Build Environ ; 219: 109166, 2022 Jul 01.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1944378

ABSTRACT

Leading health authorities have suggested short-range airborne transmission as a major route of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2). However, there is no simple method to assess the short-range airborne infection risk or identify its governing parameters. We proposed a short-range airborne infection risk assessment model based on the continuum model and two-stage jet model. The effects of ventilation, physical distance and activity intensity on the short-range airborne exposure were studied systematically. The results suggested that increasing physical distance and ventilation reduced short-range airborne exposure and infection risk. However, a diminishing return phenomenon was observed when the ventilation rate or physical distance was beyond a certain threshold. When the infectious quantum concentration was less than 1 quantum/L at the mouth, our newly defined threshold distance and threshold ventilation rate were independent of quantum concentration. We estimated threshold distances of 0.59, 1.1, 1.7 and 2.6 m for sedentary/passive, light, moderate and intense activities, respectively. At these distances, the threshold ventilation was estimated to be 8, 20, 43, and 83 L/s per person, respectively. The findings show that both physical distancing and adequate ventilation are essential for minimising infection risk, especially in high-intensity activity or densely populated spaces.

15.
Build Environ ; 221: 109323, 2022 Aug 01.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1906829

ABSTRACT

The phenomenon of vertical transmission of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) in high-rise residential buildings (HRRBs) is unique in our densely populated cosmopolitan city. The compulsory testing of a whole building under the scheme of restriction-testing declaration (RTD) during the fourth wave (non-Omicron variant) and fifth wave (mostly Omicron variant) of COVID-19 outbreak in Hong Kong allowed us to study the prevalence of this phenomenon, which may represent a form of airborne transmission. From 23 January 2021 to 24 March 2022, 25,450 (5.8%) of 436,397 residents from 223 (63.0%) of 354 HRRBs under RTD were test-positive for SARS-CoV-2. Using the clustering of cases among vertically aligned flats with shared drainage stack and lightwell as a surrogate marker of vertical transmission, the number of vertically aligned flats with positive COVID-19 cases was significantly higher in the fifth wave compared with the fourth wave (14.2%, 6471/45,531 vs 0.24%, 3/1272; p < 0.001; or 2212 vs 1 per-million-flats; p < 0.001). Excluding 22,801 residents from 38 HRRBs who were tested negative outside the 12-week periods selected in fourth and fifth waves, the positive rate among residents was significantly higher among residents during the fifth wave than the fourth wave (6.5%, 25,434/389,700 vs 0.07%, 16/23,896; p < 0.001). Within the flats with COVID-19 cases, the proportion of vertically aligned flats was also significantly higher in the fifth wave than in the fourth wave (95.6%, 6471/6766 vs 30.0%, 3/10, p < 0.001). The proportion of HRRBs with COVID-19 cases was significantly higher during the corresponding 12-week period chosen for comparison (78.2%, 219/280 vs 11.1%, 4/36; p < 0.001). Whole-genome phylogenetic analysis of 332 viral genomes showed that Omicron BA.2 was the predominant strain, supporting the high transmissibility of BA.2 by airborne excreta-aerosol route in HRRBs of Hong Kong.

16.
Build Environ ; 220: 109160, 2022 Jul 15.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1850735

ABSTRACT

The influencing mechanism of droplet transmissions inside crowded and poorly ventilated buses on infection risks of respiratory diseases is still unclear. Based on experiments of one-infecting-seven COVID-19 outbreak with an index patient at bus rear, we conducted CFD simulations to investigate integrated effects of initial droplet diameters(tracer gas, 5 µm, 50 µm and 100 µm), natural air change rates per hour(ACH = 0.62, 2.27 and 5.66 h-1 related to bus speeds) and relative humidity(RH = 35% and 95%) on pathogen-laden droplet dispersion and infection risks. Outdoor pressure difference around bus surfaces introduces natural ventilation airflow entering from bus-rear skylight and leaving from the front one. When ACH = 0.62 h-1(idling state), the 30-min-exposure infection risk(TIR) of tracer gas is 15.3%(bus rear) - 11.1%(bus front), and decreases to 3.1%(bus rear)-1.3%(bus front) under ACH = 5.66 h-1(high bus speed).The TIR of large droplets(i.e., 100 µm/50 µm) is almost independent of ACH, with a peak value(∼3.1%) near the index patient, because over 99.5%/97.0% of droplets deposit locally due to gravity. Moreover, 5 µm droplets can disperse further with the increasing ventilation. However, TIR for 5 µm droplets at ACH = 5.66 h-1 stays relatively small for rear passengers(maximum 0.4%), and is even smaller in the bus middle and front(<0.1%). This study verifies that differing from general rooms, most 5 µm droplets deposit on the route through the long-and-narrow bus space with large-area surfaces(L∼11.4 m). Therefore, tracer gas can only simulate fine droplet with little deposition but cannot replace 5-100 µm droplet dispersion in coach buses.

17.
Build Environ ; 218: 109137, 2022 Jun 15.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1803632

ABSTRACT

A COVID-19 outbreak occurred in May 2020 in a public housing building in Hong Kong - Luk Chuen House, located in Lek Yuen Estate. The horizontal cluster linked to the index case' flat (flat 812) remains to be explained. Computational fluid dynamics simulations were conducted to obtain the wind-pressure coefficients of each external opening on the eighth floor of the building. The data were then used in a multi-zone airflow model to estimate the airflow rate and aerosol concentration in the flats and corridors on that floor. Apart from flat 812 and corridors, the virus-laden aerosol concentrations in flats 811, 813, 815, 817 and 819 (opposite to flat 812, across the corridor) were the highest on the eighth floor. When the doors of flats 813 and 817 were opened by 20%, the hourly-averaged aerosol concentrations in these two flats were at least four times as high as those in flats 811, 815 and 819 during the index case's home hours or the suspected exposure period of secondary cases. Thus, the flats across the corridor that were immediately downstream from flat 812 were at the highest exposure risk under a prevailing easterly wind, especially when their doors or windows that connected to the corridor were open. Given that the floorplan and dimension of Luk Chuen House are similar to those of many hotels, our findings provide a probable explanation for COVID-19 outbreaks in quarantine hotels. Positive pressure and sufficient ventilation in the corridor would help to minimise such cross-corridor infections.

19.
Indoor Air ; 31(4):921-925, 2021.
Article in English | GIM | ID: covidwho-1723219

ABSTRACT

Ambient fine particulate matter (PM2.5), as one of the predominant air pollutants, has achieved effective control in recent years in China. Whether the use of indoor air purifiers is still necessary needs further exploration. A randomized crossover trial was conducted in 54 healthy students in Beijing, China. Participants were randomized assigned to the use of real or sham high-efficiency particulate air filter (HEPA) for a week and changed the status after a washout period. Health measurements of cardiorespiratory biomarkers were performed at the end of each period. Linear mixed-effects models were used to evaluate the association between PM2.5 exposure and cardiorespiratory biomarkers. Compared with sham air purification, average diastolic blood pressure (DBP), fractional exhaled nitric oxide (FeNO), and 8-isoprostane (8-isoPGF2-a) levels decreased significantly in the real purification. The effects of indoor air purification on lung function indicators including forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1), peak expiratory flow (PEF), and forced expiratory flow between the 25th and 75th percentile of forced vital capacity (FEF25%-75%) were also significant. Our findings showed a protective effect of indoor HEPA air purifiers on cardiorespiratory health of young healthy adults reflected by the decreased blood pressure, respiratory inflammation, and systematic oxidative stress and improved lung function.

20.
Interface Focus ; 12(2): 20210079, 2022 Apr 06.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1713825

ABSTRACT

Responses to the early (February-July 2020) COVID-19 pandemic varied widely, globally. Reasons for this are multiple but likely relate to the healthcare and financial resources then available, and the degree of trust in, and economic support provided by, national governments. Cultural factors also affected how different populations reacted to the various pandemic restrictions, like masking, social distancing and self-isolation or self-quarantine. The degree of compliance with these measures depended on how much individuals valued their needs and liberties over those of their society. Thus, several themes may be relevant when comparing pandemic responses across different regions. East and Southeast Asian populations tended to be more collectivist and self-sacrificing, responding quickly to early signs of the pandemic and readily complied with most restrictions to control its spread. Australasian, Eastern European, Scandinavian, some Middle Eastern, African and South American countries also responded promptly by imposing restrictions of varying severity, due to concerns for their wider society, including for some, the fragility of their healthcare systems. Western European and North American countries, with well-resourced healthcare systems, initially reacted more slowly, partly in an effort to maintain their economies but also to delay imposing pandemic restrictions that limited the personal freedoms of their citizens.

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