The recent news that a bird flu outbreak can spread between humans on rare occasions and the possibility of a flu-covid "twin-demic" has raised awareness of the spread of viral infections in the UK. The best way to reduce the spread of air-borne viruses may be as simple as turning on a stereotypical summer appliance.
On the week ending 26th September, around one in 50 people in England had Covid - an increase of a quarter - and more than 9,500 patients were hospitalized. As such, the term "twin-demic" refers to the possibility that an increase in COVID-19 cases could coincide with a spike in seasonal influenza, which is common in communal areas of an apartment building during the winter. The introduction of fresh air in a communal environment will reassure residents and reduce the risk of other air-transmitted viruses and bacteria spreading. Although people catch bird flu directly from birds or their droppings, providing air circulation in the community will reassure residents.
How Viruses Spread Within a Communal Apartment Block
Human viruses can spread in a residential building through direct contact between hands, contaminated surfaces, mouth, eyes, and nose in communal areas such as the kitchen and entrance hall.
Inhalation of viral particles is thought to be a major route of transmission. Droplets from the respiratory system can stay suspended for some time in the air. Several older buildings have air ducts that connect the bathrooms of different apartments, allowing contaminated air to flow directly between them. Coughing and sneezing, touching surfaces, and close contact with others can also spread germs when someone is sick. In addition to residents maintaining high levels of hygiene and keeping a reasonable distance between themselves, there are a number of other ways to reduce the spread of viruses.
How to Prevent the Spread of Viruses
Since the temperature has dropped in the United Kingdom, viruses, including COVID-19, are spreading more easily in apartments with closed windows. An air-conditioning unit or HVAC unit that has been properly maintained can increase airflow and provide effective ventilation, which can reduce the impact of the virus. This however does not have any bearing on the spread of the virus through contact between people, nor does it prevent the spread of the virus through droplets of water or contaminated surfaces. The use of masks and social distancing may still be required, as will regular cleaning of surfaces that residents touch frequently. When an air conditioning unit is used in a communal space or in a building's private areas, the risk of spreading the virus with aerosols is greatly reduced.
A resident can be more relaxed around their livable surroundings when they have air conditioning units installed, whether they are installed on the floor or in the central system. Although air conditioners were designed for cooling machinery, they soon became a breakthrough invention that brought landlords great benefits, since tenants preferred to live in buildings with air conditioning over buildings without. The UK's AC demand jumped from 154,000 units in 2012 to 188,000 units in 2017 showing the population is starting to expect the system in all seasons for both cooling effects and health benefits. Good air conditioning systems can relieve respiratory issues in your residents, keep them cool and comfortable, and prevent excessive noise from the outside. Even for a single day, a loss of commercial air conditioning can be detrimental to your residents, as it can cause viruses to spread, complaints about the temperature, and increased irritability. When more residents return to communal areas during the festive season to keep warm and meet the other residents, air conditioning units keep fresh air flowing through the building.
The Increase In Renters In The UK
The number of households occupied by private renters in England has gradually increased since 2000. In 2021, the number of households increased from two million to 4.43 million. This number is expected to increase in the coming years are house prices are due to increase and the cost-of-living crisis hits. In the UK, as the number of renters increases, properties will become more condensed with more residents in each building. 6.9 million private renters 65 years and older represented the largest household tenure group in England in 2021, and the risk of covid and the twin-demic increases as you get older. The shocking statistics that explore the rental landscape illustrate the threat to residents and the increased need for a healthy living environment this winter.
Rhiannon Cooper is a commentator for KJ Refrigeration who specialises in air-conditioning and refrigeration solutions for business.