A Virus Can Contaminate an Entire Building in Just Hours Study

09/15/2014 10:10

by Tabitha Farrar


A recent study has found that a virus can contaminate an entire building within a matter of hours. The research was presented at the 54th Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy (ICAAC) which is happening this week. Not only has the research team shown how fast a virus can spread, but they have also shown how they can be combated.


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) norovirus is the most common cause of acute gastroenteritis in the United States. Annually, this type of virus contributes to between 570 and 800 deaths. The most common sources of infection are touching a surface or an object which is contaminated, and then placing fingers close to the mouth.


Researchers from the Gerba Lab used tracer viruses such as bacteriophage MS-2 as a surrogate for the norovirus as seen in humans. The bacteriophage MS-2 is a similar shape and size to norovirus, and it is also relatively resistant to disinfectants. Phages were placed on doorknobs or work-surfaces and then samples were collected at regular intervals to track the spread. Typical surfaces tested were ones which are usually touched a lot such as bed rails in hospitals, coffee mugs and pots, door handles and knobs, light switches and push buttons, phones and other office equipment.


The research team discovered that simply touching a single doorknob in a building with a virus can result in it working its way onto every surface in the building. Countertops, or any other surface once contaminated can lead to the same effect. In the work that they did, researchers saw office buildings, healthcare facilities and hotels infected within a couple of hours of first contact from a virus.


Between two to four hours after a virus was initially placed in a building, the same virus could be identified on between 40 and 60 percent of the people working in that building. Visitors to the building were also found to carry it after a couple of hours, and so were objects that were touched frequently. The Gerba Lab scientists concluded that an entire building can become contaminated in just a matter of hours.


There is however, a solution according to Charles Gerba, University of Arizona. Gerba presented the study this week, and he says that the simple use of disinfecting wipes that contain quaternary ammonium compounds (QUATS), registered by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as an effective product, can reduce the contamination effect.


Gerba says that the use of this type of disinfectant product will reduce the spread of disease by as much as 99 percent. These disinfectant formulas are abundant and easily available in stores. There are 90 different QUAT based types of formula registered with the EPA and these are sold under over 1,500 different brands. Most are sold in the wipe form, or an easy to apply liquid. Generally, establishments use these formulas to clean on a regular basis, so while it has been discovered that viruses can contaminate entire buildings in a number of hours, good hygiene practices can effectively reduce the risk of contraction.



[Note:  Antibiotics, alcohol and hand sanitizer gels do kill most bacteria but do NOT kill viruses.  Need a bleach or similar to kill viruses.  Examples of QUATS are hand wipes by Clorox and Lysol (for hard surfaces, but not for skin).The article first appeared here.  -- DNI]