Coronavirus disease (COVID-19)

Over IOM’s 50 year history, we have provided several groundbreaking studies linking lung disease to exposure to dusts, fibres and chemicals.  With the advent of the Covid-19 crisis, our experience and expertise in understanding aerosol behaviour, aerosol and chemical exposures from inhalation and surface contact, exposure reduction potential of PPE, ventilation, and other control measures for making workplaces safe, were all highly relevant to assessing risk and helping workplaces during the pandemic.

During the current pandemic, healthcare workers are at high risk of infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus and are generally at higher risk of infection by respiratory pathogens. They may be infected by hand-to-mouth or mucous membrane contacts, direct droplet spatter from coughs and sneezes and by inhalation of fine droplets of lung fluids. There is little evidence about the concentrations of SARS-CoV-2 virus in the air or on surfaces in hospitals and other healthcare settings, which makes it difficult to judge the relative importance of these routes and hence the best way to effectively protect healthcare workers.

Our research project will collect air and surface contamination data from hospitals in Scotland, along with information about infection risk behaviours of staff, for example touching potentially contaminated surfaces and then touching their face. These data will be used to mathematically model the routes by which virus can infect workers, and this model will then be used to explore the effectiveness of various novel intervention strategies designed to protect workers, such as the treatment of surfaces to reduce survival of virus, use of localised and room filtration ventilation, use of surgical masks or respirators and other measures.

The Lead Investigator for this research project is Dr Miranda Loh. Other scientists form IOM involved in the work are Alice Davis, Dr Mark Cherrie, Dr Susanne Steinle and David Holmes.

The project involves scientists from universities in Scotland and from Public Health England (PHE). Key members of the Team are Professor Ewan MacDonald from the University of Glasgow, Dr Sean Semple from the University of Stirling and Dr Ginny Moore at PHE.

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