Despite a two-week quarantine for a Diamond Princess cruise ship, multiple cases of coronavirus have been reported and two people died on Thursday, according to a Purdue News Service release.
One Purdue professor, Qingyan Chen, believes cruise ship air conditioning systems are falling short in filtering out coronavirus particles. He said the systems are designed to only filter out particles of a certain size and thus allow the minuscule coronavirus particles to be transmitted to other people.
“It’s standard practice for the air conditioning systems of cruise ships to mix outside air with inside air to save energy," Chen said, per the release. "The problem is that these systems can’t filter out particles smaller than 5,000 nanometers. If the coronavirus is about the same size as SARS, which is 120 nanometers in diameter, then the air conditioning system would be carrying the virus to every cabin."
Chen is currently the James G. Dwyer Professor of Mechanical Engineering — a title bestowed by the Board of Trustees — and has researched the spread of air particles in transportation and how to track them, per the release. Chen also co-led the Air Transportation Center of Excellence for Airline Cabin Environment Research, where his lab researched the airborne properties of SARS, another strand of coronavirus that could provide insight into how to limit the spread of the current variation.
Chen's lab is working on a better ventilation system for cruise ships that would prevent the spread of disease by allowing each person to breathe their own air, according to the release. Aircraft have ventilation to prevent the spread of disease, but it can sometimes be spread through touch, which presents an issue if sitting next to someone who is sick.
“The further away you’re sitting from a person who is infected, the better,” Chen said.
Chen said toilets can also be a hot spot for viruses.
“Stool also contains viruses," Chen said. "Close the lid before you flush to limit how much goes into the air. Planes should provide wet wipes with alcohol to prevent the spread of the virus through touch."