How fast can viruses contaminate buildings?

Contaminating just a single doorknob or tabletop can result in the spread of viruses throughout healthcare facilities, office buildings and hotels, according to research presented at the 54th Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy.

Researchers used tracer viruses on a doorknob or tabletop at the beginning of the day in various facilities and then sampled surfaces, like bed rails, coffee pots and sink tap handles, after two to eight hours for the organism.

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Within two to four hours of contaminating the surface, the virus was detected on 40 to 60 percent of workers and visitors in the facilities and commonly touched objects.

"The results show that viral contamination of fomites in facilities occurs quickly," said Charles Gerba, PhD, of the University of Arizona, Tucson, who presented the study.

A simple intervention can prevent this spread, however. "Using disinfecting wipes containing quaternary ammonium compounds registered by EPA as effective against viruses like norovirus and flu, along with hand hygiene, reduced virus spread by 80 to 99 percent," Dr. Gerba said.

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