Airflow as a possible transmission route of middle east respiratory syndrome at an initial outbreak hospital in Korea

Minki Sung, Seongmin Jo, Sang Eun Lee, Moran Ki, Bo Youl Choi, Jinkwan Hong

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In this study, the results of an airflow investigation conducted on 7 June 2015 as part of a series of epidemiologic investigations at Pyeongtaek St. Mary’s Hospital, South Korea, were investigated. The study involved 38 individuals who were infected directly and indirectly with Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), by a super-spreader patient. Tracer gas experiments conducted on the eighth floor, where the initial patient was hospitalized, confirmed that the tracer gas spread to adjacent patient rooms and rooms across corridors. In particular, the experiment with an external wind direction and speed similar to those during the hospitalization of the initial patient revealed that the air change rate was 17–20 air changes per hour (ACH), with air introduced through the window in the room of the infected patient (room 8104). The tracer gas concentration of room 8110, which was the farthest room, was 7.56% of room 8104, indicating that a high concentration of gas has spread from room 8104 to rooms across the corridor. In contrast, the tracer gas was barely detected in a maternity ward to the south of room 8104, where there was no secondary infected patient. Moreover, MERS is known to spread mainly by droplets through close contact, but long-distance dispersion is probable in certain environments, such as that of a super-spreader patient hospitalized in a room without ventilation, hospitals with a central corridor type, and indoor airflow dispersion due to external wind.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2757
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number12
StatePublished - 2018 Dec


  • Airflow analysis
  • Infection outbreak
  • Middle East Respiratory Syndrome
  • Tracer gas
  • Transmission route
  • Ventilation

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