Survival and transmission of coronaviruses in the healthcare environment Public Deposited

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  • March 21, 2019
  • Casanova, Lisa Marie
    • Affiliation: Gillings School of Global Public Health, Department of Environmental Sciences and Engineering
  • The need for a comprehensive understanding of the routes by which viruses can spread in healthcare environments and the measures needed to prevent transmission has taken on particular urgency since the advent of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). First emerging in 2003, this newly discovered coronavirus infection spread through 26 countries, with over 8000 cases and 700 deaths. One of the striking features of the SARS outbreak was its spread in healthcare facilities, resulting in transmission to patients, visitors, and healthcare workers (HCWs). Evidence suggests that in addition to droplets and aerosols, environmental surfaces, including protective equipment worn by healthcare workers, may serve as vehicles for transmission of SARS-CoV in the healthcare environment. However, there are significant gaps in our knowledge of how coronaviruses survive on inanimate surfaces and objects, including personal protective equipment (PPE) items, found in healthcare environments. To fill these crucial knowledge gaps, this research was undertaken to better understand risks of viral contamination during PPE removal and the effects of temperature and humidity on the survival of coronaviruses on surfaces found in healthcare environments. These studies showed that currently recommended methods for removal of healthcare PPE are insufficient to protect HCWs from viral contamination during PPE removal, and that potential alternative methods for PPE removal should be developed and validated. Viral survival studies using human and animal coronaviruses as potential surrogates for SARS coronavirus show that if deposited in high numbers, coronaviruses dried onto surfaces may survive for days at temperatures and humidity levels found in healthcare environments. These viruses may also survive on materials used to make PPE long enough to pose a transmission risk. These findings suggest other members of the coronavirus family could serve as conservative surrogates for modeling the risk of indirect personal contact and environmental transmission of SARS by healthcare surfaces and PPE items, and can be used in studies to determine ways to interrupt this route of exposure and reduce the risk of disease transmission.
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  • In Copyright
  • Sobsey, Mark
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • Open access

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