Claims have been circulated on social media that the use of air conditioning may lead to the spread of COVID-19.
Heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems are used in indoor spaces, such as offices, to provide comfortable environmental conditions of temperature and humidity (moisture in the air).
There are various types of HVAC systems. Ventilation systems provide clean air through the exchange of indoor and outdoor air and through filtering. Air conditioning systems provide varying temperatures and they take excess moisture from the air.
The various types of HVAC systems means that it is not possible to generalise the results of studies that have taken place to date on the transmission of previous coronaviruses (e.g SARS) through these systems.
Of the studies that have taken place specifically on the transmission of COVID-19, there is not enough high quality evidence to support the claim that COVID-19 is spread through the use of HVAC systems.
In public spaces and buildings such as schools and offices, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends increased ventilation through natural (e.g. opening windows) or mechanical (e.g. HVAC systems that introduce outdoor air) means, preferably without systems that recirculate the air.
The WHO states that a well-maintained and operated HVAC system can reduce the spread of COVID-19 in indoor spaces by increasing the rate of air change, reducing recirculation of air and increasing the use of outdoor air.
Technical specifications and standards for HVAC systems to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in indoor spaces still need to be defined based on the results of ongoing research specific to COVID-19.
Beware of claims based on a single study. Ask if there are other studies that examine the same question and ideally, a careful summary of all the relevant studies.
Beware of claims that are based on before and after comparisons and when people don’t say what a treatment was compared to. Remember: Ask what the treatment was compared to and whether it was a fair comparison.
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