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University of Alberta researcher studying whether HVAC systems can spread COVID-19

Dr. Lexuan Zhong and her team are blending engineering and medical research to examine how and whether the virus can be carried and transmitted through air that’s pushed around by ventilation systems.
By: Alison Larabie Chase
July 06, 2020
Dr. Lexuan Zhong. Photo: CIHR.

With scientists around the world voicing their concerns about the potential for airborne transmission of COVID-19, Dr. Lexuan Zhong’s research could not be more timely. The assistant professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Alberta is leading a team investigating how heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems might allow the virus to catch a ride and spread through indoor spaces.

Dr. Zhong’s team is taking a multidisciplinary approach, bringing together medical researchers and engineers to research the issue. They’re reviewing evidence on air circulation, developing a strategy to reduce potential transmission through air systems, and testing that strategy in real life, using buildings on the university’s campus. “Basically, we want to know if ventilation systems prevent AST or if they actually increase its spread,” Dr. Zhong says.

Their research could help to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 and other types of airborne infection in densely populated buildings, simply by adjusting or rebuilding mechanical systems.

Source: Canadian Institutes of Health Research

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