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Clearing the air for the coming new normal

In case you missed it, the influential US Center for Disease Control and Prevention quietly updated its scientific brief on Covid-19 on May 7 to include airborne transmission as one of the ways the SARS-CoV-2 virus spreads. The CDC’s current thinking appears to endorse tried and tested common sense. To quote,

  • Modes of SARS-CoV-2 transmission are now categorized as inhalation of virus, deposition of virus on exposed mucous membranes, and touching mucous membranes with soiled hands contaminated with virus.

To translate: Do not insert your fingers into your nostrils or rub your eyes with them because they may carry germs. Keep a healthy distance from your friends when they cough, sneeze or blow their nose so you don’t breathe in their germs. Such has been the clear advice parents have always given children.

However, despite its belated admission more than a year after Covid-19 was declared a pandemic, the CDC maintains that,

  • Although how we understand transmission occurs has shifted, the ways to prevent infection with this virus have not. All prevention measures that CDC recommends remain effective for these forms of transmission.

This clearly flies in the face of the pandemic’s ongoing resurgence across the world. Until recently, it was the done thing to stay away from the workplace when you were feeling sick to avoid infecting healthy colleagues.

However, this basic consideration for the welfare of others appears to have been thrown to the wind in countries where a narrow and short-sighted view of “the economy” has been placed above the health of its workers — without whom, ironically, no economic activity would be possible. Hence the large and still increasing number of workplace clusters despite the CDC’s unchanging recommended preventive measures.

The dawning realisation is that Covid-19 is becoming an endemic disease; the virus is bedding down in the community to become part of our everyday lives in the long term, not unlike the flu and dengue fever. Lockdowns can no longer work, nor will they be needed as the infection rate reduces. Covid-19 will cease to spread as a pandemic but continue to rear its head from time to time in more localised settings and require different protocols to manage.

This is the definition of “new normal” that is fuzzily understood in countries where the virus still runs rampant as a pandemic because of a deficit of personal and governmental common sense.

In countries where the spread of the virus has been effectively managed, national authorities have begun to prepare for the new normal of Covid-19’s endemic presence by addressing its airborne transmission, especially in indoor settings.

For example, Singapore’s Building and Construction Authority, National Environment Agency and Health Ministry have jointly issued updated guidelines on improving building ventilation and air quality to prevent the spread of Covid-19, noting that “it is critical to mitigate this risk by improving ventilation and air quality in indoor environments.”

Among the settings which the guidelines cover are enclosed spaces where the risk of disease transmission is high, such as clinics or places where Covid-19 patients may be present, for which the guidelines recommend the use of portable air cleaners with high-efficiency filters. These should be used together with the usual precautions of face masks, sanitisation of common touch points and safe distancing.

In Malaysia, Aerus air purifiers equipped with technology that has been scientifically tested to inactivate the SARS CoV 2 virus in the air and on surfaces are currently available.

Unlike conventional, passive, filtration-based air purifiers, ActivePure works immediately and does not require capture or exposure time. It rapidly and continuously fills a room with virus-neutralising particles that instantly break viruses down to their component parts, rendering them harmless.

ActivePure Technologies, LLC, announced last December that its air purifying technology inactivated over 99.9% of highly concentrated airborne SARS-CoV-2 virus in an enclosed setting in just three minutes to below detectable levels. Testing of the ActivePure Technology® was conducted by a biosafety testing facility, the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB), which primarily tests for the US military and CDC.

ActivePure is a patented scientific process that dispatches super-charged, sub-microscopic particles at extreme speed. These particles are created by reactions between ambient water and oxygen molecules, a patented matrix coating, and a specific wavelength of UVC light. The particles collide with viruses, bacteria, and air pollutants and immediately turn them into harmless elements. Previous research has found that ActivePure inactivates the Covid-19 virus on surfaces.

Other publicised systems, such as HEPA, UV light, and MERV-13 are passive, slow, and may trap pathogens, but fail to destroy them. Many others are so dangerous that people and pets cannot be in the room when they are operating.

The UTMB research was conducted in late November 2020 in a Bio Safety Level (BSL)-3 and BSL-4 laboratory, which are used to study agents that pose a high risk of life-threatening disease. Currently, nearly all BSL-4 analysis is dedicated to CDC and military testing.

The tests were done in triplicate, according to FDA guidelines and protocols. Live SARS-Cov-2 virus was sprayed into a test chamber at extremely high concentrations (7+ logs, or over 10 million particles per milliliter).

Within three minutes, ActivePure Technology-based Aerus® Pure & Clean units, calibrated to their lowest setting of only 29 cubic feet per minute of air movement, reduced the concentration of the virus to no more than 1.6 logs, a reduction of 99.96%.[1]

The measurement limit was 1.6 logs, so the actual results may have resulted in a 99.99% or greater reduction. The units only used the ActivePure Technology; all other purification technologies in the units were disabled or removed.

The efficacy of Aerus products is now being tested to see if similar or better results can be achieved for shorter durations of 30, 60 and 120 seconds, including for other highly contagious pathogens.

[1] 'Log Reductions' convey how effective a product is at reducing pathogens. The greater the log reduction, the more effective the product is at killing bacteria and other pathogens that can cause infections. A 1 log reduction means reducing something by 9 times, a 2 log reduction means reducing something by 99 times, a 3 log reduction means reducing something by 999 times or 99.9%, etc.

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