“Is it airborne?”
The question brought me back to the days when I studied the belief in miasma. In those times, the belief that infection was due to “bad air” circulated amongst the population bringing both fear and hopelessness. When Florence Nightingale faced this issue, she took a sensible approach. If the air was bad, you could get rid of it by bringing in fresh air. Not surprisingly, it worked.
Science has since disproven miasma. We now know that viruses like SARS-CoV-2 are the real culprits and that they are shared through contact with bodily fluids such as respiratory droplets. We also know that in a room with very poor ventilation, the levels of these droplets can increase, and this can raise the risk for inhalation by someone in that environment.
If you think about it, however, the idea of “bad air” does exist. We just tend to call it “bad breath.” In the same way as those respiratory droplets can fill a room, bad breath can do the same. It becomes the perfect analogy not only for demonstrating the risk for airborne spread but also for appreciating which environments can pose a risk.
And this brings me to the spirit of this course. The science doesn’t change. Instead, our interpretation does. It doesn’t matter if we call it bad air, bad breath, or respiratory droplets; the airborne risk is real. As for the solution, as long as it is based in science, it too will not change. So, whether you open the windows, use an HVAC, or even a fan, as long as you keep the air fresh, you reduce the risk.
Florence Nightingale knew all of this long before we knew the physics, chemistry or mechanism. It is why she stands not only as a model for infection prevention but also as a light, much like her lamp, for everyone who wants to stay safe. It’s also why this course is designed to honour her name.