Masks, social distancing and hand hygiene have become widely accepted as ways to reduce the spread of coronavirus.
But some scientists are saying the ventilation of our homes and workplaces could be another tool in our prevention armoury.
As we learn more about COVID-19, more evidence has emerged that the virus spreads through aerosols as well as through larger droplets, especially in closed, crowded spaces.
But the good news, according to aerosol scientist Alex Huffman from Denver University, is we can do things to reduce the risks indoors.
“Ventilation is a really important piece of the puzzle,” he told the ABC’s AM program.
Keeping fresh air flowing has not yet been a high priority as public health officials have focused on the important work of increasing the adoption of social distancing and mask-wearing but now, said Dr Huffman, it was time to begin talking to the public more about our indoor environment.
Some solutions, he said, could be implemented by people in their homes at little to no cost but making changes to offices and public buildings needed a bigger effort from politicians and business.
“It is a resource issue, but I also think it’s a leadership issue. If your leaders are convinced that this is a critical piece of the puzzle, then they will find a way to make it happen.”
Why has indoor airflow not been a bigger part of the conversation?
Airflow inside buildings and other enclosed areas like public transport has received less attention than other prevention strategies, in part because of debate within medical and scientific circles about the role of aerosols in the transmission of the virus, with some experts focusing on bigger droplet particles as being more important in transmission.
But in recent weeks, the World Health Organisation, the American Centres for Disease Control, the European Commission and Canada have acknowledged airborne aerosol transmission has a significant role in the spread of coronavirus.
Australia’s Infection Control Expert Group has acknowledged the potential for aerosol transmission in some clinical settings and has noted the risk may be higher in poorly ventilated indoor crowded environments.
The group’s current prevention advice lists good hand hygiene, physical distancing, staying at home and masks.