Coronavirus COVID-19 Air Conditioning Update

Sanitair will continue to protect Australians

Sanitair Technicians will continue to provide their highly professional and necessary services Australia Wide throughout these challenging times as an essential service.

Amidst this recent and ongoing breakout of Covid-19, we want to ensure all of you that we are taking all of the precautionary methods and more as we continue to operate our business, and together, we will overcome this. Sanitair technicians are highly trained in working with biological contaminants and have been following best practice whilst delivering our highly professional services since 2005.

As we continue to operate in these challenging times the health of our customers and technicians is as always a priority. Our technicians are well practiced in the use of personal protective equipment in our industry to protect themselves when decontaminating and sanitising Air Conditioning systems.

Sanitair technicians will now wear their personal protection equipment before entering a customers property to add further protection and reassurance for our customers. This personal protection will include the usual wearing of facial respirators and disposable gloves. Technicians will minimise any unnecessary contact with our customers property and/or its surfaces. All Sanitair technicians will conduct post cleaning/disinfection of door knobs, water taps and Air Conditioning remote controls that they have come into contact through our cleaning process before departure.

Sanitairs on wall cleaning system, equipment and products (Protectair) are formulated to neutralize, contain and remove microbiological contaminants with minimal exposure to our technicians and customers during our remediation process.

Sanitair management are seeking regular advice from the Australian Health Department and leading industry bodies in regards to Air Conditioning, COVID-19 and the risk to Public Health. All Sanitair technicians are practising social distancing as recommended and taking extra precautions in addition to our usual standards to enhance our overall safety protocols.

Do I need to disinfect my air conditioning?

At this stage it would appear that there is minimal risk of home Air Conditioning systems spreading COVID-19 ( Coronavirus).

However, A.G. Coombs has published an advisory note which was reproduced by The Australian Institute of Refrigeration and Air Conditioning that explores how COVID-19 may interact with Air Conditioning systems and the steps that should be taken to reduce the spread of the virus.

Although the note confirms that according to the most recent information–COVID-19 is mainly spread through respiratory droplets, it also indicates that there may be a small risk of airborne droplets entering Air Conditioning Systems.

“It is known that large droplets (>60 µm) normally are too large to remain suspended in the air and usually fall and land on surfaces. In some instances, some of the fluid can evaporate and the large droplets can transform into smaller particles called droplet nuclei and these can remain suspended in air. Droplet nuclei (2.5 to 10 µm) are believed to be able to remain suspended in air for hours and therefore be entrained into Air Conditioning Systems.”

With this in mind, the note details practical HVAC operational measures that can be considered to reduce the likelihood of the virus spreading.

These include:

  • Maintenance regimes and essential safety measures
  • Cleaning and disinfection
  • System commissioning and operation, and outside air rates
  • Air filtration and cleaning options.

Many government authorities like Safe Work NSW recommend that air conditioning systems be maintained as per the Australian Standard for Indoor Air Quality to minimise any further risk. Professional Air Conditioning Cleaning and Sanitising is highly important with any disease outbreak to minimise the risk to all room occupants against exposure to harmful pathogens.

COVID-19 (Coronavirus)

The virus is now known as severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), while the name of the disease it causes is now called COVID-19.

There is currently no evidence that Coronavirus (COVID-19) spreads through air conditioning systems. Current advice is that COVID-19 is a droplet-based virus and not believed to be an airborne virus.

The virus appears to be spread by droplets and these droplets are too heavy to become airborne and enter air conditioning systems unassisted. The World Health Organisation agrees that the virus appears to be spread by coming into close contact with infected persons or contaminated surfaces and/or objects.

What’s the difference between airborne and droplet spread?

When we sneeze, cough or talk, we expel particles in a range of sizes.

The bigger, wet droplets larger than 5-10 millionths of a meter (µm or micrometre) fall to the ground within seconds or land on another surface.

These wet droplets are currently considered to be the highest risk routes for the SARS-CoV-2. But smaller particles aren’t implicated in the spread of SARS-CoV-2.

smaller particles remain suspended in the air and evaporate very quickly (at less than one-tenth of a second in dry air). They leave behind gel-like particles made of proteins, salts and other things, including viruses.

These leftovers are called “droplet nuclei” and can be inhaled or entrailed into an Air Conditioning System. They may remain aloft for hours, riding the air currents throughout Air Conditioning and Ventilation Systems in hospitals, shopping centres, public gatherings, homes and work places. This is what we mean when we talk about something being airborne.

But there’s more to airborne spread. To infect humans, the droplet nuclei need to contain infectious virus. The virus must be able to land on our mucous membranes – the soft lining of our ears, nose, conjunctiva (eyelid), throat and digestive tract and it must be able to enter our cells and replicate.

REF: Katherine Arden is a virologist at The University of Queensland.

As of the 17/03/2020 according to the WHO and the best advice available is that NO infectious virus related to COVID-19 has been captured or recovered in air sampling. This would need to occur to demonstrate and confirm that the virus was of an airborne type and easily transmitted throughout Air Conditioning Systems.

What about the Diamond Princess Cruise Ship?

Did COVID-19 spread throughout the Diamond Princess Air Conditioning?

A recent study published in The Journal of American Medical Association said; “Toilet bowl and sink samples were positive, suggesting that viral shedding in stool could be a potential route of transmission. Post cleaning samples were negative, suggesting that current decontamination measures are sufficient.”

The good news is that the air tests came back negative, suggesting the disease doesn’t hang around in the air like the highly infectious measles does. But “swabs taken from the air exhaust outlets tested positive, suggesting that small virus-laden droplets may be displaced by air flows and deposited on equipment such as vents”.

It’s not clear from this study whether the viruses found in the air vents were viable and could have infected another person, as they didn’t test it in the lab.

Many air-conditioning systems recycle air, including those used on cruise ships. More than 700 people on board the Diamond Princess got infected after crew and passengers were placed under quarantine at the start of February. Experts said this might have resulted in many more infections than would have taken place had people been allowed to disembark and be placed into proper quarantine facilities.

“A cruise ship with a large number of persons on board is more an incubator for viruses rather than a good place for quarantine,” said Anne Gatignol, a microbiologist who studies viruses at McGill University.

Another expert told The Telegraph if SARS-CoV-2 is as small as the SARS virus which it’s related to, it’s far too small to be captured by cruise ship and building air filtration systems.

What about Aircraft Air Conditioning?

Commercial aircraft Air Conditioning systems use highly effective HEPA filtration known to capture 99.999% of all viruses and bacteria that could make their way into a planes Air Conditioning System.

Unlike traditional air conditioning that recycled the air, commercial aircraft air conditioning  continually introduces fresh air and has the ability to change upto 50% of of the internal air every 3 minutes. Aircraft additionally utilise “HEPA filtration which offer a similar level of performance to those used to keep the air clean in hospital operating rooms and industrial clean rooms.

It is conceivable that the COVID-19 virus could be transmitted in an environment such as an aircraft over several meters, if an infected person was to cough and the droplets were to be displaced by airflows from personal ventilation outlets. Once again the advice is to practice best personal hygiene practices.

There is no evidence to date which would indicate that the COVID-19 virus could be circulated directly throughout an aircraft’s air conditioning system even if it was to enter it due to the advanced filtration systems found on commercial aircraft.

Things you can do to protect yourself from infection;

  1. Maintain good personal hygiene
  2. Wash your hands frequently with soap and water especially after toilet use.
  3. Regularly disinfect door/fridge handles, toilet flush buttons and shared surfaces such as Vehicle Steering Wheels\Gear Sticks and Handles
  4. Carry alcohol-based hand sanitiser for when soap and water are not available
  5. Place Sanitiser at the front door of your home or business and ask all occupants and visitors to use before entering
  6. Very Important – Avoid touching your face
  7. Social Distancing – Keep a distance of 1.5 meters between others
  8. Limit the use of ceiling fans when air conditioning is operating
  9. Regularly ventilate rooms and spaces with fresh air

PLEASE NOTE

For the safety of all our technicians, customers and the general public, we ask that upon booking any Sanitair service we are made aware of any persons who maybe self-isolating or feeling unwell at the property of the proposed works.

For any further information you can contact Sanitair Head Office on 1800 130 168 or email ceo@sanitair.com.au

Stay Safe and Be Well

Craig Jefferies

Chief Executive Officer – Sanitair Australia