Role of two-way airflow owing to temperature difference in severe acute respiratory syndrome transmission: revisiting the largest nosocomial severe acute respiratory syndrome outbreak in Hong Kong

Chun Chen, Bin Zhao, Xudong Yang, Yuguo Li

Abstract

By revisiting the air distribution and bioaerosol dispersion in Ward 8A where the largest nosocomial severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak occurred in Hong Kong in 2003, we found an interesting phenomenon. Although all the cubicles were in ‘positive pressure’ towards the corridor, the virus-containing bioaerosols generated from the index patient's cubicle were still transmitted to other cubicles, which cannot be explained in a traditional manner. A multi-zone model combining the two-way airflow effect was used to analyse this phenomenon. The multi-zone airflow model was evaluated by our experimental data. Comparing with the previous computational fluid dynamic simulation results, we found that the air exchange owing to the small temperature differences between cubicles played a major role in SARS transmission. Additionally, the validated multi-zone model combining the two-way airflow effect could simulate the pollutant transport with reasonable accuracy but much less computational time. A probable improvement in general ward design was also proposed.

  • Received September 6, 2010.
  • Accepted October 22, 2010.
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