people could be spared the suffering of flu, the UK economy could save millions and pressure relieved on the NHS from flu-related illness.
A recent study carried out by the US National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health (NIOSH) has shown that airborne transmission of the flu virus can be significantly reduced by maintaining an atmosphere of 40% relative humidity (RH) and above.
It is estimated that over 7.6million working days are lost in the UK each year as a result of flu-related sickness, costing the UK economy over £1.35 billion per annum. Most experts think that flu is spread by tiny droplets created when people with flu cough or sneeze, which can remain in the air for hours.
NIOSH tested the effects of humidity on airborne influenza by “coughing” aerosols of flu virus into a room’s atmosphere from a mechanical manikin at humidity ranging from 7-73%RH, while the air intake from a breathing manikin in the room was monitored.
The air inhaled by the breathing manikin showed that in a room humidity of 23%RH and below the airborne flu virus retained 71-77% infectivity, while at 43%RH and above infectivity dropped to just 15-22%. The study also showed that inactivation of the airborne virus at the higher humidity occurred rapidly after coughing with most of the decline occurring in the first 15 minutes.
“This study shows that by maintaining an optimum humidity in the workplace and public buildings, thousands of people could be spared the suffering of flu, the UK economy could save millions and pressure relieved on the NHS from flu-related illness.” comments Tim Scott, Director at humidification specialist JS Humidifiers.
“Although many professional bodies, including the HSE, recommend maintaining indoor humidity at above 40%RH we frequently see buildings’ humidification systems being turned off to save on operating costs. A drop in humidity is not as noticeable by employees as a drop in temperature, so it can go unnoticed. However, the true cost of not maintaining indoor humidity can be poor health and an increase in absenteeism, which could far outweigh the cost of operating the building’s humidification system.” Tim continues.
“The easiest way to know if you are being subjected to low humidity is the presence of static electric shocks. Static occurs when the air is dry so if you are constantly experiencing shocks, the ambient humidity is probably below 40%RH, and as this study shows, you could be being exposed to more than just an annoying spark.” Tim concludes.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) is the U.S. federal agency responsible for conducting research and making recommendations for the prevention of work-related injury and illness. NIOSH is part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
JS Humidifiers is the UK’s leading humidification company offering a service of advice, design, supply, installation and maintenance of industrial and commercial humidification systems.
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High Humidity Leads to Loss of Infectious Influenza Virus from Simulated Coughs (2013). John D. Noti, Francoise M. Blachere, Cynthia M. McMillen, William G. Lindsley, Michael L. Kashon, Denzil R. Slaughter, Donald H. Beezhold. Health Effects Laboratory Division (HELD), National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Cell Biology, School of Medicine, West Virginia University.
Estimate of the cost of influenza to the UK economy carried out by The Co-operative Pharmacy (2010).
PR contact: Duncan Buxton, Marketing Manager, JS Humidifiers T: 01903 850200 E: firstname.lastname@example.org
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