Contamination of surfaces and virus viability in a health care emergency unit
Our knowledge is essentially based on the evaluation of various routes of transmission for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV-1), Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) and Influenza virus.
Although direct contact transmission occurs most likely through droplets, the ability of these viruses to survive on inanimate surfaces has been reported by several studies.
For instance, it has been shown that SARS-CoV-1 can survive for at least 96 hours in sputum, serum, and stools, which may facilitate transmission if any contact with eyes, nose or mouth occurs following a touch of infected material. Similarly, droplets are thought to be the major driver of SARS-CoV-2 transmission, even though the virus may potentially spread in the environment and transferred from inanimate surfaces to hands. Recently published data indicate that fomite transmission of SARS-CoV-2 may occur, since the virus can remain viable for days on surfaces under controlled experimental conditions, similarly to SARS-CoV-1.
Disease amplification in healthcare settings has already been documented for past SARS and MERS outbreaks, and contamination of inanimate materials by infectious respiratory secretions or other body fluids (saliva, urine or stools) would plausibly contribute to SARS-CoV-2 spread in the environment.
The problem is further compounded by the possibility that undocumented infection could facilitate the rapid dissemination of SARS-CoV-2 . Thus, efficient disinfection measures would be the first containment barrier to avoid virus spread.
To this end, it has recently been shown that inanimate surfaces located outside patients’ rooms were free of SARS-CoV-2 RNA, suggesting that protective measures and current decontamination procedures are effective, reducing concerns over the risk of fomite transmission in the healthcare setting.
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