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We obtained 24 air samples in 8 general wards temporarily converted into negative-pressure wards admitting coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) patients infected with severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) omicron variant BA.2.2 in Hong Kong. SARS-CoV-2 RNA was detected in 19 (79.2%) of 24 samples despite enhanced indoor air dilution. It is difficult to prevent airborne transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in hospitals.
Air dispersal of respiratory viruses other than SARS-CoV-2 has not been systematically reported. The incidence and factors associated with air dispersal of respiratory viruses are largely unknown.
We performed air sampling by collecting 72,000 L of air over 6 hours for pediatric and adolescent patients infected with parainfluenza virus 3 (PIF3), respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), rhinovirus, and adenovirus. The patients were singly or 2-patient cohort isolated in airborne infection isolation rooms (AIIRs) from December 3, 2021, to January 26, 2022. The viral load in nasopharyngeal aspirates (NPA) and air samples were measured. Factors associated with air dispersal were investigated and analyzed.
Of 20 singly isolated patients with median age of 30 months (range, 3 months–15 years), 7 (35%) had air dispersal of the viruses compatible with their NPA results. These included 4 (40%) of 10 PIF3-infected patients, 2 (66%) of 3 RSV-infected patients, and 1 (50%) of 2 adenovirus-infected patients. The mean viral load in their room air sample was 1.58×103 copies/mL. Compared with 13 patients (65%) without air dispersal, these 7 patients had a significantly higher mean viral load in their NPA specimens (6.15×107 copies/mL vs 1.61×105 copies/mL; P < .001). Another 14 patients were placed in cohorts as 7 pairs infected with the same virus (PIF3, 2 pairs; RSV, 3 pairs; rhinovirus, 1 pair; and adenovirus, 1 pair) in double-bed AIIRs, all of which had air dispersal. The mean room air viral load in 2-patient cohorts was significantly higher than in rooms of singly isolated patients (1.02×104 copies/mL vs 1.58×103 copies/mL; P = .020).
Air dispersal of common respiratory viruses may have infection prevention and public health implications.
Universal masking for healthcare workers and patients in hospitals was adopted to combat coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), with compliance rates of 100% and 75.9%, respectively. Zero rates of nosocomial influenza A, influenza B, and respiratory syncytial virus infection were achieved from February to April 2020, which was significantly lower than the corresponding months in 2017–2019.
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