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Weber State professor works to combat virus spread through indoor air


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WEBER COUNTY, Utah — Washing your hands and covering your cough are still very important, but the pandemic also showed us things like RSV and COVID-19 spread through the air.

It's something they watch for with large events here at Weber State and something you might want to consider when you're indoors. About a year ago, facilities managers at Weber State University began to look at basic types of scenarios where they could prevent virus spread.

Demetrios Pagonis is an assistant professor in chemistry and bio-chemistry, and he was called on to help measure the risk for spread inside some of the school's performance venues.

"We wanted to be able to map CO2 concentrations all through the browning center," Pagonis said. "So it just takes from the room inside, and it measures the pressure and the amount of CO2 in the air."

Twenty sensors like this one were all networked together and higher amounts of carbon-dioxide meant more people in close quarters, sharing less-ventilated air.

With those numbers — generally, anything over 800 parts per million being a significant concern — Pagonis said they could start to calculate what the risks are and then increase the rate of the air being filtered through.

"So, you can adjust the schedule of how these things run," he explained.

"We can start to calculate what the risks are," Pagonis said. "So you can adjust the schedule of how these things run. You can make sure that the filters are being used after everyone leaves the space, so you make sure you get everything out of the air they may have left behind."

Overall he says it was effective in lowering those readings. Pagonis says we need to shift the way we look at how these viruses spread.

"We've learned that in addition to surface droplet transmission, you also have a pathogen in much smaller particles that can travel longer distances through the air indoors," Pagonis said.

If you're in a crowded or not well ventilated space, Pagonis says you may consider wearing a N95 mask.

Air purifiers or cleaners can also help at home and around the office. He says just get one with a HEPA filter, the other features you may see like ionic filtering don't actually help.

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Mike Anderson
Mike Anderson often doubles as his own photographer, shooting and editing most of his stories. He came to KSL in April 2011 after working for several years at various broadcast news outlets.

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