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Aviation Ventilation Expert Available to Speak About Swine Flu Spread on Airplanes

Proper ventilation on board aircraft can help lessen the risk

ATLANTA, April 29 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers recently created a standard that offers guidance on air quality on board commercial aircraft, including requirements for ventilation to lessen the risk of all disease exposure -- including diseases such as swine flu -- while on board.

While airborne transmission is only one way in which disease can spread, ASHRAE Standard 161, Air Quality within Commercial Aircraft, addresses this aspect. ASHRAE is working to get the FAA to adopt the standard, or to have the standard included in federal aviation legislation.

Dr. Byron Jones, the leader of the committee that wrote the standard, is available to comment. Dr. Jones says, "Some of the more well-known cases of disease transmission on aircraft were when the aircraft was parked with the ventilation systems shut down for any period of time," as seen in Tulsa World newspaper April 29.

Major considerations in the standard include:

  • Providing adequate ventilation. Ventilation flushes out contaminants generated in the aircraft cabin, including airborne pathogens. In general, the greater the ventilation rate, the lower the concentration for these contaminants. Maintaining the ventilation rates at or higher than the minimum rates prescribed in Standard 161 helps to limit the spread of pathogens in an aircraft cabin.
  • Standard 161 prescribes HEPA filtration of all air cabin exhaust air that is recirculated to the cabin. This requirement is included to insure that pathogens are not inadvertently carried from one part of the aircraft cabin to another part by the aircraft environmental control system.
  • Standard 161 prescribes minimum ventilation rates for all phases of flight, including boarding, deplaning, taxi, ground holds, etc. Because of the high occupant density in aircraft cabins, contaminant levels can increase rapidly if ventilation is shut off. It is important to not allow aircraft to be occupied for extended periods without the prescribed levels of ventilation.
  • The Standard provides additional measures for aircraft design, maintenance, and operation that can be taken to minimize the opportunity for transmission of disease in aircraft.

SOURCE American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers
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