MIT scientists say humidity 'sweet spot' may help reduce spread of COVID-19

MIT scientists say humidity ‘sweet spot’ may help reduce spread of COVID-19

Previous research has indicated that adequate indoor ventilation helps reduce the spread of COVID-19. Now, MIT researchers have found a “sweet spot” in indoor humidity that they believe may reduce transmission of the novel coronavirus.

In the study published November 16, 2022 in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface, researchers report that maintaining indoor relative humidity between 40-60% is attributed to lower rates of COVID-19 infections and deaths. 19. The MIT researchers noted that most people feel comfortable at around 30 and 50 percent relative humidity. Airplane cabins are usually around 20%.

To find this sweet spot, the researchers analyzed data from 121 countries, from January 2020 to August 2020. The researchers say that whenever a specific region experienced a spike in COVID-19 deaths or cases, the Relative humidity in this region averaged either below above 40% or above 60%, regardless of season.

“There is potentially a protective effect of this intermediate indoor relative humidity,” suggests lead author Connor Verheyen, a doctoral student in medical engineering and medical physics in the Harvard-MIT program in health science and technology.

“Indoor ventilation is always critical,” says co-author Lydia Bourouiba, director of MIT’s Fluid Dynamics of Disease Transmission Laboratory and associate professor in the Departments of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Mechanical Engineering, and the MIT Institute of Medical Engineering and Science. “However, we find that maintaining indoor relative humidity in this sweet spot – 40-60% – is associated with reduced Covid-19 cases and deaths.”

Meanwhile, the head of the World Health Organization on November 9 reported an almost 90% drop in recent COVID-19 deaths worldwide compared to nine months ago, giving “a reason for optimism”, but still called for vigilance against the pandemic as variants continue to appear. .

Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said just over 9,400 coronavirus-related deaths were reported to the WHO last month. By February this year, he said, weekly deaths had topped 75,000 worldwide.

“We’ve come a long way, and that certainly inspires optimism. But we continue to call on all governments, communities and individuals to remain vigilant,” he told a virtual news conference from WHO headquarters in Geneva.

So is the coronavirus disappearing?

You might think so. New and updated reminders are being rolled out to better protect against the variants currently circulating. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has dropped quarantine and distancing recommendations for COVID-19. And more and more people have thrown off their masks and resumed their pre-pandemic activities.

But scientists say no. They predict that the plague that has already lasted longer than the 1918 flu pandemic will persist far into the future.

Any reason why it took so long? It has become better and better at circumventing immunity against vaccination and past infections. Scientists point to emerging research that suggests the latest omicron variant gaining traction in the US – BA.4.6, which was responsible for around 8% of new US infections last week – appears to be even more effective at escaping to the immune system than the dominant BA. 5.

Scientists fear the virus will continue to evolve in worrying ways.

How long will it last?

White House COVID-19 coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha said COVID-19 will likely be with us for the rest of our lives.

Experts expect COVID-19 to one day become endemic, meaning it occurs regularly in certain regions in established patterns. But they don’t think it will be very soon.

Still, living with COVID “shouldn’t have to be a scary or bad concept” because people are getting better at fighting it, Jha said during a recent Q&A with U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont. “Obviously, if we slow down – if we stop updating our vaccines, we stop getting new treatments – then we could go backwards.”

Experts say COVID will continue to cause serious illness in some people. The COVID-19 Scenario Modeling Center made pandemic projections spanning August 2022 to May 2023, assuming that new modified boosters adding protection for new omicron parents would be available and a campaign of recall would take place in the fall and winter. In the most pessimistic scenario – a new variant and late recalls – they predicted 1.3 million hospitalizations and 181,000 deaths during this period. In the most optimistic scenario – no new variant and no early recalls – they projected just over half the number of hospitalizations and 111,000 deaths.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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