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Respiratory experts cast doubt over COVID-19 risk posed by nebulisers

Ross and Russel
Article image for Respiratory experts cast doubt over COVID-19 risk posed by nebulisers

The Department of Health believes the COVID-19 cluster linked to the Holiday Inn quarantine hotel was sparked by the use of a nebuliser in a room.

But two respiratory virus experts have played down the likelihood the nebuliser was to blame.

Respiratory virus researcher at the University of Sydney, Associate Professor Euan Tovey, says the field is divided.

“There’s one group, particularly a British group, who say that nebulisers are no problem,” he told Ross and Russel.

“The Australian guidelines and some of the American guidelines say ‘no, there is a risk’ although it’s not exactly clear why.”

Associate Professor Tovey doesn’t think nebulisers themselves are a risk, but the behaviours they cause could be.

“My suspicion is that nebulisers don’t do much,” he said.

“But the things that you do with a nebuliser, like the cough and the deep breathing, may increase the risk.”

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Dean of the School of Health Sciences at Swinburne University, Professor Bruce Thompson, says he doesn’t believe the nebuliser spread the virus at the Holiday Inn.

“I think it actually is innocent,” he told Ross and Russel.

“The particle size is actually quite large, and therefore it’s heavy, so it turns to sediment very, very quickly.

“Even if a little bit actually got into the air conditioning system and travelled down the corridor, how viable is that virus?

“It would be very, very unlikely.”

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