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Preventing the airborne spread of contagious diseases in GP practices

High-performance air purifiers can support practices to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission and infection and reduce the spread of other viral and bacterial diseases.

 (Photo: Luis Alvarez/Getty Images)
(Photo: Luis Alvarez/Getty Images)

The last 12 months have laid bare the devasting effects of the contagious spread of viral infections and the importance of taking all the relevant steps available to protect against the risk of widespread transmission.

This is particularly important in healthcare settings such as GP practices, where a viral infection can place patients with existing health conditions at a greater risk of morbidity and mortality.

While the role of surface contamination has been the area of focus for infection prevention strategies over the past year, another important and less well recognised route of transmission is through airborne respiratory droplets and small particles that remain suspended in the ambient air over time, particularly in indoor settings with inadequate ventilation1 and lack of filtration.

Commercial Air Filtration

Commercial Air Filtration is an independent specialist in airborne infection control, providing a range of air purification solutions to medical and healthcare facilities across the UK. Commercial Air Filtration takes a scientific approach to airborne contamination control, supplying solutions that are individually tested, certified and guaranteed for their high filtration efficiency. Visit CommercialAirFiltration.co.uk

This article is funded by Commercial Air Filtration for GP Connect

In light of recent calls for healthcare facilities and other settings to pay greater attention to the role of airborne transmission of COVID-19 and the need to improve indoor air quality, it is vital that GP practices consider measures that can be adopted to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and other common illnesses among both patients and staff.2

Importance of ventilation

The absence of adequate ventilation in GP practices is a recognised issue amongst GPs, with 48% citing this as a priority area for future investment back in 2018.3

In addition, the need for proper ventilation has recently been highlighted by nearly 20 organisations representing healthcare workers and patients in the UK, including the BMA, Royal College of Nursing and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, particularly in light of evidence that shows COVID-19 can be transmitted in healthcare settings even in the absence of aerosol generating procedures, such as in general practice.4

While figures from the RCGP have shown that the rate of respiratory diseases has remained below the seasonal average in recent months, the college has warned that as lockdown measures were eased last year, the rate of illnesses such as the common cold increased as more people mingled and sought medical treatment from their general practice.5,6

As such it will be important to ensure measures are in place ahead of the upcoming easing of current lockdown measures to maintain the reduction in common illnesses and prevent any future waves of COVID-19 infection.4

What actions can practices take?

One mechanism to address the need for improved ventilation in healthcare settings is the use of professional air purifiers, which can be easily and quickly installed, and do not require any disruptive building work.

High-performance air purifiers can not only support practices to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission and infection, but they can similarly help to reduce the spread of the range of other viral and bacterial diseases that circulate every year, such as influenza, as well as other pollutants and allergens.

Professional High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters that have been classified by the EN1822 filter test are effective in removing 99.5% of all airborne particles from the air, which includes SARS-CoV-2 as well all other viruses, bacteria, fine and ultra-fine airborne pollutants, and can therefore act as an important supplementary measure to reduce viral contamination in the ambient air.7

Some HEPA filters, such as the HyperHEPA filter, exceed this and have over 99.97% efficacy of removing particles measuring 0.3 μm in size. Even at different air speeds, the HyperHEPA filter has consistently shown efficacy at capturing even nanometer-size particles with at least 99.95% efficiency.

  • To find out more about high-performance air purifiers and how they can support your practice, visit Commercial Air Filtration.

References

  1. World Health Organization. Transmission of SARS-CoV-2: implications for infection prevention precautions. July 2020. Available: https://www.who.int/news-room/commentaries/detail/transmission-of-sars-cov-2-implications-for-infection-prevention-precautions
  2. Tang JW et al. Covid-19 has redefined airborne transmission. BMJ 2021; 373: n913 Available: https://www.bmj.com/content/373/bmj.n913
  3. BMA. GP Premises survey results 2018. September 2020. Available: https://www.bma.org.uk/advice-and-support/gp-practices/gp-premises/gp-premises-survey-results-2018
  4. Protecting health care workers - better ventilation, PPE, awareness and research. February 2021. Available: https://www.rpharms.com/Portals/0/Documents/009%20613_Letter%20to%20PM_Protecting%20health%20care%20workers_WEB.pdf?ver=2021-02-18-172938-967
  5. Royal College of General Practitioners Research and Surveillance Centre. Public Health Data. Available: https://www.rcgp.org.uk/clinical-and-research/our-programmes/research-and-surveillance-centre/public-health-data.aspx
  6. Iacobucci, G. Covid lockdown: England sees fewer cases of colds, flu and bronchitis. BMJ 2020; 370: m3182. Available: https://www.bmj.com/content/370/bmj.m3182
  7. Zhao B et al. Air purifiers: A supplementary measure to remove airborne SARS-CoV02. Building and Environment 2020; 177: 106918. Available: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7180358/

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