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Carbon dioxide monitors to track Covid-19 risk

Scientists have developed a way of using carbon dioxide monitors to help estimate the risk of catching COVID-19 and other airborne diseases in near-real time.

They say it could help track the evolving risk of transmission in indoor spaces, such as schools and offices, and may also lay the groundwork for air quality monitoring in the future.

Such systems could predict transmission rates of airborne diseases, such as COVID-19 or seasonal flu, and work in concert with ventilation systems to adjust the air within buildings to keep the risk of transmission low.

The research builds on work from the same authors, published earlier this year, which provided a guide to the risk of airborne transmission in different indoor settings.

Using data from super-spreader events, they produced a mathematical model that estimated the average length of time it would take to become infected when sharing a space with someone who had COVID-19.

From this they produced a safety guideline, setting limits on time spent in shared spaces, and adjusted by factors including the size of room, numbers of infected and susceptible people, what they were doing, ventilation and mask use.

The researchers say there is overwhelming evidence that the virus which causes COVID-19 is mainly spread by airborne droplets, breathed out by infected people. Measuring CO2 tracks how much air people are breathing out and the rate at which it is removed by ventilation.

Lead author Martin Z Bazant said: “CO2 monitoring has been used for decades to assess the quality of air handling in buildings, and can now be re-purposed to assess the risk of indoor airborne disease transmission.”

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Image credit | iStock

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