Tuesday, March 21, 2023 | Sha'ban 28, 1444 H
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Plan against respiratory viruses!

Diseases have long been accepted by humanity as inevitable facts of life, typhoid and typhus, to name a few — and over time they have become unacceptable in our world. But after all this success, after all that humanity has done to prevent the spread of disease through water or insects for example, it seems that we missed something... we missed the air!

Indeed, this turned out to have had serious consequences for the onset of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic. We may remember that our understanding at the beginning was that the coronavirus spreads like the flu, so we did not need ventilation or masks. We started washing our hands and disinfecting everything we touch. But after a year and a half of evidence, virus-laden micro-particles do linger in the air of poorly ventilated areas. This may explain why the outdoors is safer than indoors and why an infected person can spread the infection to dozens of others without talking to them or touching them directly.

Perhaps it is not just about the coronavirus here. It is true that vaccines and face masks work against the coronavirus, but looking at medical sources I conclude for a moment that scientists wanted to think bigger and more ambitious other than what anyone can do to protect them from the coronavirus or any future epidemic that is coming. Meaning if the buildings we work in allowed respiratory viruses to spread through the air, then we should be able to redesign the buildings to prevent that in the future. We just have to reimagine how air flows in all the places where we work, learn, play and breathe, especially in our schools.

In fact, our hospitals and medical laboratories already have systems designed to reduce the spread of these pathogens. I think the question that we must ask here is: Do we need a new and different set of minimum standards in our schools and offices for such systems in the future? Perhaps the next challenge for such ideas will be cost. Getting more outside air into the building or adding air filters requires more energy and money to run such a system. And if I can tell, the question also here is: how much sickness are we willing to put up with before we act, whether through an idea like this or future plans here to prevent any looming epidemic?

It is true that the amount of health changes required in this era by society is enormous, but this undoubtedly does not exceed the capabilities of our society. The changes may take a long time to become important for this current epidemic, but there are other viruses spread through the air, and therefore preparing for the future is very important to deal with any epidemic to come.

At end, we should always remember that the amount of changes depends on the momentum now being generated. Vaccines seemed to end the epidemic quickly — but then they didn’t, because the delta variable complicated things. And the longer this pandemic lasts, the more severe the cost of exhaling indoor air — in the idea we presented above — looking to the benefits of ventilation which may reach far beyond the Corona virus. So if we want to live with the Corona virus forever — as it seems very likely — can we ventilate our buildings that are full of employees and clean the air inside them continuously? We don’t drink polluted water, so why should we tolerate breathing polluted air?

The author is a physician, medical innovator and a writer

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