Role of ventilation in airborne transmission of infectious agents in the built environment - A multidisciplinary systematic review

Yuguo Li, G. M. Leung, J. W. Tang, X. Yang, C. Y.H. Chao, J. Z. Lin, J. W. Lu, P. V. Nielsen, Jianlei Niu, H. Qian, A. C. Sleigh, H. J.J. Su, J. Sundell, T. W. Wong, P. L. Yuen

Research output: Journal article publicationReview articleAcademic researchpeer-review

676 Citations (Scopus)


There have been few recent studies demonstrating a definitive association between the transmission of airborne infections and the ventilation of buildings. The severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) epidemic in 2003 and current concerns about the risk of an avian influenza (H5N1) pandemic, have made a review of this area timely. We searched the major literature databases between 1960 and 2005, and then screened titles and abstracts, and finally selected 40 original studies based on a set of criteria. We established a review panel comprising medical and engineering experts in the fields of microbiology, medicine, epidemiology, indoor air quality, building ventilation, etc. Most panel members had experience with research into the 2003 SARS epidemic. The panel systematically assessed 40 original studies through both individual assessment and a 2-day face-to-face consensus meeting. Ten of 40 studies reviewed were considered to be conclusive with regard to the association between building ventilation and the transmission of airborne infection. There is strong and sufficient evidence to demonstrate the association between ventilation, air movements in buildings and the transmission/spread of infectious diseases such as measles, tuberculosis, chickenpox, influenza, smallpox and SARS. There is insufficient data to specify and quantify the minimum ventilation requirements in hospitals, schools, offices, homes and isolation rooms in relation to spread of infectious diseases via the airborne route.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2-18
Number of pages17
JournalIndoor Air
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2007


  • Airborne
  • Airflow
  • Building
  • Outbreak
  • Transmission
  • Ventilation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Building and Construction
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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