Study: Norovirus can spread through air

eboladoc_blogThought to be transfer through contaminated surfaces, fecal matter, vomit, or through contaminated food, Norovirus is one of the most common causes of viral gastroenteritis in humans. However, new research is showing that the bacteria that causes this virus really only needs air to transfer from one person to another.

As reported by Gastroenterology and Endoscopy News, a team led by a researcher with the Quebec Heart and Lung Institute has concluded that Norovirus can be spread in the air up to several meters around an infected individual. The new research suggests that the aerosolized virus would settle in the pharynx and be swallowed by the victim.

According to a recent article, the research on airborne Norovirus was conducted at eight hospitals and long-term care facilities in Canada that were experiencing gastroenteritis outbreaks. The article states that air samples were taken at a distance of one meter from the doors to patient rooms and at nursing stations.

Noroviruses — non-enveloped, single-stranded RNA viruses — were found in the air at six of the eight facilities in the study. The viruses were found in 54% of the rooms, 38% of the hallways, and at 50% of the nursing stations. The viral concentrations ranged from 13 to 2,350 particles per meter of air. A dose of 20 particles is usually enough to cause illness, the article states.

Noroviruses are responsible for more than 50% of global gastroenteritis cases, or about 19 to 21 million illnesses a year in the U.S. alone. That total includes 56,000 to 71,000 hospital cases and 570 to 800 deaths per year.

According to Dr. Duchaine, the lead on the study, this previously unknown mode of Norovirus propagation could explain why gastroenteritis outbreaks are so hard to contain.

“The measures applied in hospital settings are only designed to limit direct contact with infected patients. In light of our results, these rules need to be reviewed to take into account the possibility of airborne transmission of Noroviruses,” She said in a recent article.

This data should not only be taken into consideration in a hospital or long-term care setting, but also in places such as cruise ships where outbreaks of Norovirus are common as passengers spend lengthy amounts of time contained in the same space.

“Use of mobile air filtration units or the wearing of respiratory protection around patients with gastroenteritis are measures worth testing,” Dr. Duchaine added.

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