A University Hospital of Nantes in France study has found that hospitals air carry large amounts of the new Coronavirus particles.
The researchers of the study found that a quarter of the intensive care rooms containing COVID-19 patients were contaminated with the virus’s genetic material.
Furthermore, more than %20 of samples from toilets and showers, and more than half of samples from hallways were also contaminated.
The team says the high concentration of the virus in the air along with the fact that many people are crowded in poorly ventilated rooms could explain how frontline healthcare workers end up infected despite wearing protective gear.
In an analysis JAMA Network Open published, its team searched for articles on air pollution of COVID-19 between January 1 and October 27.
The team included 24 studies from eight countries including the United States, the United Kingdom, Italy, China, Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea and Iran.
The team collected hospital air samples from patient rooms (including intensive care units), clinical areas, nurses’ stations, changing rooms, public areas (e.g. corridors and main entrances), toilets, and showers.
Of 893 samples taken, %17.4 were containing genetic material of SARS-CoV-2.
Twenty-five percent of air samples taken from intensive care rooms contained the virus compared %10.7 in other rooms.
The highest percentage of contaminated samples (%23.8) came from bathrooms and hallways.
The researchers say this is likely because bathrooms are small and poorly ventilated. The virus’s genetic material was also found in stool samples.
They said that toilet flushing may spread the virus’ RNA in toilets or small, unventilated bathrooms.
Fifty-six percent of samples taken from corridors came out positive with an overall rate of 33.3% in public areas.
Twelve percent of samples from healthcare staff rooms were positive while %19.2 of samples from conference rooms were positive and %3.9 from changing rooms.
The detection of high levels of virus particles in staff rooms (e.g. conference and dining rooms) could be as a result of contracting the virus [between healthcare personnel] during breaks.
During these periods, healthcare personnel remove face masks frequently in small areas without ventilation.
The team says it is not clear whether Coronavirus carried in hospital air is viable enough to infect people. They hope to study this in future research.
The researchers say that the high viral loads found in toilets and/or bathrooms, staff areas, and public corridors requires a careful study find ways to prevent the transmission of the virus.
However, the presence of viable viruses should be examined in the first place, they say.