Covid-19: Urgent need for ventilation guidelines to improve indoor air quality, says Dr Adeeba

PETALING JAYA (June 8): Malaysia needs clear guidance on the ventilation system in buildings because cleaner indoor air could curb the spread of the coronavirus, said Professor Datuk Dr Adeeba Kamarulzaman, member of the Scientific Council of the World Health Organization (WHO) and infectious disease expert (photo).

“Experts and industry leaders also need to step up. Don’t sit and wait, ”those words are part of Dr Adeeba’s bugle call in a phone interview with today.

In late May, as Bloomberg reported, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) accepted scientific findings that the coronavirus can also spread throughout the world. air, and scientists are now calling for ventilation systems to be overhauled to fight the pandemic.

In the meantime, various guidelines have been issued by the WHO and CDC themselves, the European CDC and recently (25 May) Singapore with its updated guidance note on improving ventilation and quality. indoor air in buildings.

“For the past 18 months or so, the focus has been mostly on surface transmissions and direct or close contact (for Covid-19),” said Dr Adeeba, who is also president of the Malaysian AIDS Foundation. .

In fact, she noted that the ventilation guidelines should have been written a long time ago as they could have huge economic implications, for example, they could serve as a property guide for restaurants and retailers in improving the home. indoor air quality.

For example, shopping centers may need to consider allowing restaurants to overflow into aisles to provide better ventilation and avoid overcrowding in confined spaces. All of this could help curb the spread of Covid-19 and other airborne viruses.

“I’m not that worried about large establishments like shopping complexes and office buildings with large spaces. It’s the small individual stores and also the restaurants where people take off their masks while eating that worries me, ”she said.

She advised the public to start by taking simple steps like opening doors and leaving windows open.

“This is going to be an expensive exercise, but it is imperative in the long term and the advice should be released as soon as possible, especially for the commercial sector,” Dr Adeeba stressed.

What you can do at home

As for residential houses, Dr Adeeba suggested that they also have adequate ventilation. “Now we see that the houses are mostly air conditioned and loaded with carpets. We are far from the well ventilated houses of the past with less carpets, more shutters and not dependent on air conditioning. We should be living within our climatic parameters, ”said Dr Abeeda.

To begin with, she got into the habit of opening all the doors and windows to ventilate her whole house in the morning. “The only place with air conditioning is the bedroom. But even before Covid, we usually use fans and go for natural ventilation. It’s healthier like that, ”she explained.

Sadly, she lamented that there is still a lot of confusion, misplaced emphasis and, overall, a lack of understanding on the issue. In addition, there is still not enough recognition from people at the top about good ventilation in buildings.

“We’re obsessed with locking people down – motion controls. Some people still do not know how the virus is transmitted. The risk of transmission in a poorly ventilated indoor environment is so much higher than outdoors, ”said Dr Adeeba.

Vaccine apathy and ivermectin

Separately, Dr Adeeba added that another major concern right now when it comes to the Covid-19 vaccination is that some people don’t see the vaccine as important – not high on their priority list.

“They don’t hesitate and may not be educated enough to understand otherwise. This could be due to logistics, difficulty in registering, etc. We must chain community and religious leaders down to the ground [to encourage vaccination] and I’m glad it’s happening already, ”Dr Adeeba said, adding that a different communication approach is needed instead of just focusing on reducing fears about side effects.

Last week, in a Sinar Harian program, she said Covid-19 is expected to be the second leading cause of death in Malaysia after a heart attack. She also cited a study conducted by the Institute for Health Metric and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington in the United States which found that the death toll from Covid-19 in the country could reach 26,000. here September based on the current trajectory.

The same study also estimated that the daily death rate would reach 200 cases by the end of August.

As for her thoughts on the ivermectin clinical trials launched by the Ministry of Health (MOH), she is still on the fence. “I’m not completely disputing it or saying no, but we need bigger and better clinical trials and studies on this issue,” Dr Adeeba said.

She also pointed out that India has removed the use of ivermectin from the guidelines of its Ministry of Health.

On June 5, the Director General of Health, Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah, mentioned that although ivermectin has been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration as an antiparasitic drug for the treatment of several neglected tropical diseases, including l onchocerciasis, strongyloidiasis and helminthiasis, is insufficient evidence to recommend its use as routine treatment on Covid-19 patients.

However, Dr Noor Hisham added that the Department of Health has started clinical trials (in accordance with WHO recommendations) in 12 of its hospitals to study the use and effectiveness of ivermectin for patients with high risk of Covid-19 in the country.

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