Ventilation, Fresh Air: UCC Professor says the basic simple lessons we learned from the 1918 flu pandemic have been forgotten

How quickly we forget. Lessons learned about the design of schools following the 1918 flu pandemic have been forgotten in the last 40 or 50 years, UCD’s Orla Hegarty has stated (Irish Examiner Nov 7th).

COMBINING fresh air with education during a health crisis is not a new concept — open-air schoolrooms were present throughout Europe and America amid pandemics in the early 20th century.

Originally, these classrooms were built around the idea that good ventilation, as well as outdoor exposure, would help prevent the spread of TB.

Now in 2020, the importance of ventilation, fresh air, and the classroom in a pandemic is once again being considered.

Out of 318 outbreaks examined in China, just one could be traced back to transmission in an outdoor space.

When it comes to indoors, ventilation is also considered by the World Health Organization as an important factor in preventing the virus from spreading, although it does not see it as the only defence.

For schools, it recommends fresh, clean air, as well as increasing ventilation through natural means — ie open windows — or failing that, through a mechanical system, but preferably without the recirculation of air.

“Always try to avoid the recirculation of air,” WHO director Dr Maria Neira said recently. When this is unavoidable, systems should have filters that are regularly and properly maintained and changed, she added.

Eirdata recommends a simple series of tests to determine if your indoor environment, be it home, school, office or factory is contributing to your wellness – not the opposite.