Air filtration and SARS-CoV-2

Epidemiol Health. 2020:42:e2020049. doi: 10.4178/epih.e2020049. Epub 2020 Jul 4.


Air filtration in various implementations has become a critical intervention in managing the spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). However, the proper deployment of air filtration has been hampered by an insufficient understanding of its principles. These misconceptions have led to uncertainty about the effectiveness of air filtration at arresting potentially infectious aerosol particles. A correct understanding of how air filtration works is critical for further decision-making regarding its use in managing the spread of COVID-19. The issue is significant because recent evidence has shown that severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) can remain airborne longer and travel farther than anticipated earlier in the COVID-19 pandemic, albeit with diminishing concentrations and viability. While SARS-CoV-2 virions are around 60-140 nm in diameter, larger respiratory droplets and air pollution particles (>1 µm) have been found to harbor the virions. Removing particles that could carry SARS-CoV-2 from the air is possible using air filtration, which relies on the natural or mechanical movement of air. Among various types of air filters, high-efficiency particle arrestance (HEPA) filters have been recommended. Other types of filters are less or more effective and, correspondingly, are easier or harder to move air through. The use of masks, respirators, air filtration modules, and other dedicated equipment is an essential intervention in the management of COVID-19 spread. It is critical to consider the mechanisms of air filtration and to understand how aerosol particles containing SARS-CoV-2 virions interact with filter materials to determine the best practices for the use of air filtration to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Keywords: Aerosols; COVID-19; Coronavirus; Filtration; HEPA; MPPS.

MeSH terms

  • Aerosols
  • Air Filters / virology*
  • Betacoronavirus*
  • COVID-19
  • Coronavirus Infections / epidemiology
  • Coronavirus Infections / prevention & control*
  • Humans
  • Pandemics / prevention & control*
  • Pneumonia, Viral / epidemiology
  • Pneumonia, Viral / prevention & control*
  • SARS-CoV-2


  • Aerosols