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AC offices hotbed of infections

Friday, 20 December 2013 - 7:51am IST | Agency: dna

Enclosed workplaces with unclean AC ducts & dusty carpets help viruses and bacteria circulate.
  • Ravi Jadhav dna

Amit Chauhan, 32, had a second attack of viral respiratory infection in less than a month that led him to skip work for a week. Chauhan, a HR professional in a multi-national company, who has been taking medication for a month, said he picked up the infection from office.

According to doctors, modern offices that are enclosed and have centralised air-conditioning are becoming an ideal place for many to get cross infections, like common colds and influenza.

Dr Pratit Samdhani, a physician at Jaslok Hospital, said, “We are getting eight to 10 patients with respiratory problems daily. On checking their history, we found that many contracted the virus most likely in their office as their colleagues too were down with similar symptoms.”

Samdhani added that AC ducts are carriers of bacteria and viruses and need to be cleaned once in a month. “In many offices, the AC duct is not cleaned regularly. Also, the windows are kept closed, leading to the circulation of the bacteria and viruses. This is leading to cross infection in many people,” said Samdhani.

Agreeing with him, Dr Jalil Parker, chest physician at Lilavati hospital, said that many offices have carpet which is another reason for cross infections flourishing in offices.

“A carpet needs to be dusted daily. It not only carries viruses and bacteria but also allergens that can trigger respiratory ailments in people with weak lungs or those suffering from asthma, etc,” said Parker.

Cleaning AC duct and carpet is not in the hands of the employees, but, doctors say, cross infection can be minimised in offices if people follow basic hygiene.

“Simple steps, such as using handkerchief while sneezing or coughing and using hand sanitiser, can dramatically reduce cross infection in offices. Many people sneeze in open, thus, making colleagues vulnerable to the infection,” said Dr Hemant Thacker, physician at Breach Candy hospital.

Apart from this, city hospitals are also seeing a rise in the number of patients queuing up because of the dipping temperature and fluctuating weather.

Thacker said, “We are getting several people with coarseness of voice, runny nose and throat irritation, symptoms that are more viral in nature. It takes around five to six days for them to settle and is accompanied with a lot of weakness and backache. The change in weather is leading to the rise in number of respiratory cases. In some cases, there’s fever too. People should avoid drinking cold water in the afternoon.”

Enclosed offices are ideal for spreading many acute respiratory infections like common colds and influenza. The best way to prevent such illnesses is to get an influenza vaccine every winter

Reducing pathogen load in the indoor environment is an important infection control measure, particularly when some of the building occupants are suffering from respiratory infections. Enhancing ventilation system performance will further reduce pathogen load.

Air cleaners with HEPA filters may be employed to reduce airborne microbial populations if there is difficulty in increasing fresh air supply. Proper maintenance is required for their effective functioning

Meanwhile, people should maintain basic hygiene to avoid setting the viruses and/or bacteria in circulation.

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