Past event

Physics and Astronomy Colloquium Complexities in mitigating airborne infection

Professor Cath Noakes, OBE, FREng, CEng, FIMechE, FIHEEM
University of Leeds
Complexities in mitigating airborne infection

COVID-19 has presented us with the most difficult healthcare and societal challenge we have faced in living memory. To understand the mechanisms of transmission we have had to rapidly collect new evidence on the SARS-CoV-2 virus ranging from laboratory data on survival and fluid dynamics studies on droplet dispersion through to epidemiological evidence from outbreaks, contract tracing and cohort studies. Over this time we have become acutely aware of the role that the environment plays in transmission, and how our interactions in indoor spaces determine the risk of infection — and it is apparent that this is complex and uncertain with a wide range of risks across all environments.
This presentation sets out what we know about transmission of airborne pathogens in the built environment and the factors that influence transmission routes and the variability between people and settings. I will talk about some of the engineering and modelling approaches that can be used to understand mechanisms for transmission and the effectiveness of mitigation strategies, with a focus on evaluating engineering solutions such as ventilation and air cleaning technologies. This includes experience from ongoing intervention studies looking at air cleaners and ventilation in schools and recent work in collaboration with colleagues at St Andrews and NHS Tayside to explore the potential benefits of using Far UV technologies.