Inactivation of influenza A viruses in the environment and modes of transmission: a critical review

J Infect. 2008 Nov;57(5):361-73. doi: 10.1016/j.jinf.2008.08.013. Epub 2008 Oct 9.


Objectives: The relative importance of airborne, droplet and contact transmission of influenza A virus and the efficiency of control measures depends among other factors on the inactivation of viruses in different environmental media.

Methods: We systematically review available information on the environmental inactivation of influenza A viruses and employ information on infectious dose and results from mathematical models to assess transmission modes.

Results: Daily inactivation rate constants differ by several orders of magnitude: on inanimate surfaces and in aerosols daily inactivation rates are in the order of 1-10(2), on hands in the order of 10(3). Influenza virus can survive in aerosols for several hours, on hands for a few minutes. Nasal infectious dose of influenza A is several orders of magnitude larger than airborne infectious dose.

Conclusions: The airborne route is a potentially important transmission pathway for influenza in indoor environments. The importance of droplet transmission has to be reassessed. Contact transmission can be limited by fast inactivation of influenza virus on hands and is more so than airborne transmission dependent on behavioral parameters. However, the potentially large inocula deposited in the environment through sneezing and the protective effect of nasal mucus on virus survival could make contact transmission a key transmission mode.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Disease Transmission, Infectious
  • Humans
  • Influenza A virus*
  • Influenza, Human / prevention & control
  • Influenza, Human / transmission*
  • Models, Biological
  • Virus Inactivation*