Meat plants have proved to be vulnerable flashpoints for COVID-19 in Ireland and internationally. The transmission dynamics of SARS-CoV2 within plants are incompletely understood. Multiple occupational and environmental factors are likely to be involved. The UPCOM project proposes to improve infection prevention and control methods in such environments, by developing precision methods for understanding transmission and environmental stability of the virus. This multidisciplinary and multi-partner project will investigate the build-up of aerosols, transmission dynamics and the effectiveness of mitigation measures. The UCC team will investigate patterns of bio-aerosol formation and accumulation and determine concentrations of respirable particles in the size range emitted by human speech, breathing and coughing/sneezing throughout working shifts. Air changes per hour will be correlated with environmental conditions such as air temperature, humidity and carbon dioxide content. The measurements will be used to inform objective assessment of air quality interventions such as filtration/UV treatment of re-circulated air, changing occupancy levels, and altering ventilation rates. SARS-CoV-2 recovery from airborne particles will also be carried out to correlate overall and specific particle sizes with potential viral transmission risks.
Lead UCC PI: Dr. Stig Hellebust UCC Co-PIs: Prof. Michael Prentice & Prof. John Wenger