City University of Hong KongStanding against the pandemic

Standing against the pandemic

Despite the unprecedented global health crisis, City University of Hong Kong (CityU) has maintained teaching, learning and research activities thanks to our prompt preventative actions. A comprehensive suite of online teaching options was launched and safety measures implemented. The safety of staff and students comes first as we tackle the challenges posed by Covid-19.

To enhance public awareness of their well-being, CityU experts are contributing their professional knowledge and expertise to help tackle the novel coronavirus. They have shared ideas as diverse as predicting the development of the pandemic, introducing a new form of ventilation for hospitals, and advising about pets. 

Projecting local scenario for coronavirus outbreak

Dr Sean Yuan Hsiang-yu, Assistant Professor in the Department of Biomedical Sciences, using a model adapted from Imperial College London, estimated in January 2020 that Hong Kong residents returning from mainland China after the Lunar New Year celebration, if infected but undiagnosed for 5 days, would bring 60 infected cases in total in a few weeks. His estimate was close to the number of confirmed cases in Hong Kong at that time.

He also projected a possible increase of around 60 infected cases from mid-February to mid-March. Whether the number of local infections would grow significantly depended on how effective the quarantine measures were at reducing the recontact rate between high-risk individuals and other people, he said.

Dr Sean Yuan Hsiang-yu

Toilet flushing, bacteria and aerosol droplets

According to a study revealed by Professor Alvin Lai Chi-keung, Associate Head of the Department of Architecture and Civil Engineering, and his research team, toilet users’ health can be affected by pathogens embedded in airborne aerosol droplets, which may rise as high as one metre from the toilet seat during flushing and spread in the air. The team suggested using 1 in 49 diluted household bleach to regularly clean the toilet bowl and 1 in 99 diluted household bleach to clean all areas of the washroom. 

Professor Alvin Lai Chi-keung (right)

New air ventilation system for hospitals

An innovative ventilation system called stratum ventilation can help reduce the risk of Covid-19 infection by supplying fresher air for healthcare staff in isolation wards. It has been developed by Professor John Lin, Head of the Division of Building Science and Technology, who has been studying ventilation systems since the outbreak of SARS in 2003.

The air supply and exhaust for the stratum ventilation system can be placed strategically in different positions for a particular functional location. The supply can be placed in the middle of a wall while the exhaust can be placed near the floor, minimising the mixing of fresh and obsolete air in a hospital ward and providing double protection for healthcare workers.

Professor John Lin

Public health experts discuss preventive measures

Professor Dirk U. Pfeiffer, Chow Tak Fung Chair Professor of One Health, shared his opinions via commentary articles on public health strategies.

He pointed out that the focus of public health strategies is often on government regulation, which cannot be effectively and sustainably enforced combined with very traditional communication tools, such as posters that aim to visualise the risk and desirable behaviour. A widespread adoption of a One Health approach, involving medical, veterinary, and social science, as well as other relevant scientific disciplines, would significantly improve the chances of dealing much more effectively with infectious disease risk, he suggested.

Professor Dirk U. Pfeiffer

He also commented as early as February that the epidemic might turn into a pandemic while at the same time commenting on the effectiveness of city lockdowns, arguing that governments need to consider risk, consequences, and different intervention scenarios.

Covid-19 affects humans but concerns have arisen about pets. The public was reassured when Professor Vanessa Barrs, Chair Professor of Companion Animal Health and Disease and Associate Dean of the Jockey Club College of Veterinary Medicine and Life Sciences, said there was no evidence to suggest pets spread the novel coronavirus.

She commented on a case involving a local dog diagnosed with low-level Covid-19 infection. Its weak-positive test result indicated it had been exposed to the virus after its owner was infected. The key point was the dog was not sick and there was no evidence that the dog was infectious to humans or other animals, which was similar to the previous experience with SARS.

After similar stories emerged in the media about animals and Covid-19, CityU scientists weighed in with comments based on extensive research.

Professor Vanessa Barrs

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