CDC Releases Ventilation Guidance for Curbing Spread of COVID-19, Influenza

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Agency recommends improving ventilation.

Improving ventilation is one way to curb the spread of respiratory viruses like COVID-19, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says in new guidance.

“By using core strategies, like vaccination and practicing good hygiene, we can protect ourselves and those we care about from respiratory illness. Improving ventilation is another one of the core strategies that can reduce our risk of catching or spreading respiratory viruses,” the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases said in a recent update.

COVID-19 vaccines and influenza vaccines both have subpar effectiveness against infection and neither prevent transmission, the agency did not note.

“Good ventilation can help safeguard our health by reducing our exposure to respiratory viruses. People can still get sick after ventilating a space, so it is important to use ventilation as one part of a multi-layered approach to protect ourselves against getting sick from respiratory viruses,” the CDC added. “It’s important to take steps to improve ventilation in our homes and other indoor spaces as a core prevention strategy year round, from cold winters to hot summers.”

Key tips include bringing in fresh, outdoor air inside, which helps keep virus particles from accumulating indoors, the CDC said. One method for doing so is to open windows and doors.

Another is maintaining home heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems by having them checked regularly and replacing filters as recommended by manufacturers, and to set systems to circulate more air when people are inside.

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The CDC is also advising to use high-rated filters, air purifiers, and portable CO2 monitors.

“A portable CO2 monitor can help you determine how stale or fresh the air is in rooms. Readings above 800 parts per million (ppm) suggest that you may need to bring more fresh, outdoor air into the space,” the CDC said. “Check that the exhaust fans in kitchens and bathrooms work and vent to outside your home or building. These fans help remove stale air and bring fresh air into your living spaces. You can also keep exhaust fans turned on when visitors are in your home and leave them on for an hour after they leave.”

Steps to improve ventilation should especially be a focus among people who are at higher risk of developing severe illness after catching a virus, following exposure to an illness, or when respiratory viruses are causing high levels of illness in one’s community, according to the CDC.

“Some of these recommended actions to improve ventilation may require systems-level changes, but individuals can still take steps to reduce exposure to virus particles in buildings, especially in their homes,” the CDC said in a statement.

Dr. Dick Zoutman, a Canadian physician, was among those pleased with the new guidance.

“Quite good summary of recommendations for indoor air quality,” he wrote on X, formerly Twitter, although he noted many of the recommendations were offered in 2021 by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers.

Some studies have found that ventilation helped curb COVID-19 spread. An analysis of 32 papers, for instance, concluded that “increased ventilation rate was associated with decreased transmission, transmission probability/risk, infection probability/risk, droplet persistence, virus concentration, and increased virus removal and virus particle removal efficiency.”

Other papers have found that revamping ventilation systems did not have an impact on COVID-19 transmission or cases.

“In the setting of high community COVID-19 disease transmission, 6 feet of distance between elementary students and major ventilation system renovations in primary or secondary schools do not appear to be necessary to minimize disease spread,” researchers reported in a preprint paper on schools in Wisconsin.
The CDC said in another preprint that masking and ventilation was associated with fewer cases in schools in Georgia.

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