According to a new observational study of infected college students in an isolated dormitory at the University of Oregon, opening a window can cut the amount of coronavirus in a room in half.
The study, which was made public online, is modest and has yet to be published in a peer-reviewed publication. However, data shows that the virus spreads from sick persons into the air in a room; that the more virus they carry, the more virus builds up indoors; and that both natural and mechanical ventilation appears to diminish the viral load in the environment.
Kevin Van Den Wymelenberg, the study’s lead author and director of the Institute for Health in the Built Environment, said, “Ventilation is one of the most important mitigation methods that we have at our disposal.”
Between January and May, the researchers looked at 35 University of Oregon students who tested positive for the coronavirus. Following that, all pupils were placed in separate rooms in a Covid isolation dormitory for a 10-day period of isolation.
Petri plates were set in each area, and an active air sampler was utilized to collect aerosols floating in the air. They also swabbed numerous surfaces in the room, as well as students’ noses and lips, several times a day.
The researchers next conducted polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing to see if the virus was present in each sample and, if so, in what quantities.
The data revealed that there was a definite correlation between the amount of virus carried by pupils and the viral load in the environment. During the isolation period, the amount of virus in kids’ noses and mouths dropped, as did the amount of virus in the air.
Although the scientists noted that even asymptomatic students produced lots of viruses, the viral loads in the rooms were larger on average when the students were symptomatic than when they were symptom-free. Several self-reported symptoms, such as coughing, were linked to greater virus loads in the environment.
The researchers also estimated each room’s mechanical ventilation rate and asked students how often the windows were opened. They discovered that in rooms where the window was closed more than half of the time, virus loads were nearly twice as high on average.
Leslie Dietz, a study co-author and researcher at the University of Oregon, stated, “Ventilation is incredibly crucial, and I think we’re only starting to grasp how vital it is.”
The study was limited by the fact that it only included young individuals and both symptoms and window data were self-reported. The researchers also stated that they were unable to determine how much of the virus in the room was alive or capable of infecting others.