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With infectious diseases transmitted through aerosols, HVAC systems can have a major effect on the transmission from the primary host to secondary hosts. Decreasing exposure of secondary hosts is an important step in curtailing the spread of infectious diseases.
Designers of mechanical systems should be aware that ventilation is not capable of addressing all aspects of infection control. HVAC systems, however, do impact the distribution and bio-burden of infectious aerosols. Small aerosols may persist in the breathing zone, available for inhalation directly into the upper and lower respiratory tracts or for settling onto surfaces, where they can be indirectly transmitted by resuspension or fomite contact.
Infectious aerosols can pose an exposure risk, regardless of whether a disease is classically defined as an “airborne infectious disease.” This position document covers strategies through which HVAC systems modulate aerosol distribution and can therefore increase or decrease exposure to infectious droplets, droplet nuclei, surfaces, and intermediary fomites in a variety of environments.