Viruses with pandemic potential including H1N1, H5N1, and H5N7 influenza viruses, and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS)/Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) coronaviruses (CoV) have emerged in recent years. SARS-CoV, MERS-CoV, and influenza virus can survive on surfaces for extended periods, sometimes up to months. Factors influencing the survival of these viruses on surfaces include: strain variation, titre, surface type, suspending medium, mode of deposition, temperature and relative humidity, and the method used to determine the viability of the virus. Environmental sampling has identified contamination in field-settings with SARS-CoV and influenza virus, although the frequent use of molecular detection methods may not necessarily represent the presence of viable virus. The importance of indirect contact transmission (involving contamination of inanimate surfaces) is uncertain compared with other transmission routes, principally direct contact transmission (independent of surface contamination), droplet, and airborne routes. However, influenza virus and SARS-CoV may be shed into the environment and be transferred from environmental surfaces to hands of patients and healthcare providers. Emerging data suggest that MERS-CoV also shares these properties. Once contaminated from the environment, hands can then initiate self-inoculation of mucous membranes of the nose, eyes or mouth. Mathematical and animal models, and intervention studies suggest that contact transmission is the most important route in some scenarios. Infection prevention and control implications include the need for hand hygiene and personal protective equipment to minimize self-contamination and to protect against inoculation of mucosal surfaces and the respiratory tract, and enhanced surface cleaning and disinfection in healthcare settings.
Keywords: Healthcare-associated infection; Influenza virus; MERS-CoV; SARS-CoV; Surface contamination; Transmission.
Copyright © 2015 The Healthcare Infection Society. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.