Singapore-based uHoo, a global air quality management company, has launched the “uHoo Virus Index” – the world’s first real-time assessment of virus survival (such as COVID-19) based on air quality. The “uHoo Virus Index” is a patent-pending technology that analyzes air quality data, monitored by uHoo, and provides an assessment on the risk of viruses surviving in homes or workplaces, as well as how the air affects general health and immune system.

The uHoo Virus Index works on a 10-point system, and subcategorized into four levels: Good, Mild, Bad and Severe. Each level provides insights about air quality, risk of virus surviving and how to improve the environment to reduce risk.

The COVID-19 pandemic forced people to spend more time indoors where the air might be two to five times worse than outside air. As governments slowly lift COVID-19 restrictions, many will still stay at home while some charge ahead to go back to their workplace. In both cases, there is an increased focus and need for living and working in healthy buildings which reduce the risk of virus spread. In either environment, people are unknowingly exposed to suboptimal air quality, if not managed properly.

uHoo recently published a white paper consolidating research from various governments, universities and international medical and environmental journals explaining the link between air quality and COVID-19 death rates as well as explaining in detail how the “uHoo Virus Index” works. The “Using Indoor Air Quality Data to Create the uHoo Virus Index” white paper can be found here.

“Research shows a strong correlation between poor air quality and higher COVID-19 death rates. In addition, long-term exposure to pollutants weakens immune systems and exacerbates other health conditions. COVID-19 has increased the focus on health and well-being, air quality and the need for ‘healthy buildings’, especially, as we gradually return to our workplaces. uHoo has seen increased demand globally from governments, enterprises, building owners and consumers. uHoo has launched this unique patent-pending “uHoo Virus Index” to help minimize the spread of viruses,” says Dustin Jefferson S. Onghanseng, Co-Founder and CEO of uHoo.

Buildings have always been focused on being energy efficient, usually at the expense of people’s health. This has resulted in people getting sick inside their offices, viruses and bacteria being passed to each other, feeling discomfort (too hot / too cold), having smells or odors inside workplaces, and other factors not clearly visible to the eye, but affecting our general health and well-being. These are symptoms of a sick building and primarily caused by the air people breathe indoors. This has led to the rise and demand for “healthy buildings”. Professors Joseph Allen and John Macomber from Harvard’s School of Public Health and Harvard Business School, recently co-authored a book focused on how buildings and surroundings impact health, well-being, lung health and higher order cognitive functions.

COVID-19 has put air quality top of mind. A recent survey showed that 88% want air quality data to be publicly displayed on a large screen inside offices, building lobbies, restaurants, hotels, and any public establishment as a means to assure guests that the environment is being managed properly and is safe for them to enter. COVID-19 has indeed accelerated the movement from energy-efficient buildings to healthy buildings. A healthy building is now the new normal, it is the new minimum.

uHoo monitors nine (9) different indoor air parameters – temperature, relative humidity, carbon dioxide, PM2.5, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, ozone, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and air pressure – and provides data, alerts, insights, and recommendations via the uHoo mobile app, accessible through any smartphone that’s connected to the internet.

Research published in the American Society of Microbiology showed that SARS-COV surrogate viruses, a coronavirus genetically very close to SARS-CoV2 / COVID-19, survive longer and can become airborne in specific combinations of temperature and humidity.

The air we breathe indoors can also be a vector for viruses. Particulate Matter, also known as “Particle Pollution”, is a complex mix of small particles and liquid droplets. Particulate Matter at 2.5 microns in size is small enough to stay suspended in the air that viruses can latch onto and become airborne. A study published in the journal of Genome Biology showed that PM2.5 accommodates rich microbial communities that have potential health consequences. Scientists from Harvard University also reported that long-term exposure to PM2.5 increased the death rate of COVID-19 cases. uHoo measures PM2.5 in real-time and sends alerts when it reaches unhealthy thresholds so people can immediately take action.

Busy streets and combustion sources creating nitrogen dioxide also contribute to poor air quality in homes/workplaces. Inside buildings, ambient infiltration of nitrogen dioxide occurs due to the building’s structural imperfections which can be worsened by poorly designed or poorly maintained ventilation systems. Exposure to raised levels of nitrogen dioxide inflames the lining of the lungs which may reduce our immunity to fight COVID-19 due to lung infection.

Aside from nitrogen dioxide, continuous exposure to high levels of carbon dioxide can also cause lung-inflammation and put vulnerable people at a higher risk. Having sufficient ventilation not only dissipates high levels of CO2 inside the home/workplace but also flushes out particles that may have viruses latched onto them.

uHoo makes these invisible problems in the air visible. It provides people with accurate air quality data that help to identify problems and take appropriate action. The uHoo Virus Index goes the extra step of analyzing the air quality as a whole, instead of in silos, to help people properly create an environment to effectively deactivate viruses and strengthen the immune system.

uHoo is used by tens of thousands of households and almost 200 governments and enterprises globally today – with deployments in office buildings, hotels, airports, shipping ports, local government buildings, offices and homes. Over the last 3 months, uHoo has witnessed a spike in demand and expects this to be a “new normal” trend, with the increased focus on health and well-being.

Poor air quality is linked to higher virus survival and infectivity. Various research has shown the correlation between viruses and air quality. Suboptimal air quality not only affects the ability of viruses to survive in an indoor environment but also affects our immune system. All of this is quantified in the uHoo Virus Index and uHoo at the same time provides specific recommendations on what people can do to improve the air quality and create a healthier and safer indoor environment.

To learn more about how the uHoo Virus Index works, check out their whitepaper.