To study the survival of human rhinovirus 14 on environmental surfaces, each stainless steel disk (1 cm in diameter) was contaminated with 10 microL (about 10(5) plaque-forming units) of the virus suspended in either 1 chi tryptose phosphate broth (TPB), 5 mg/mL of bovine mucin in normal saline, or undiluted human nasal discharge. The inoculum was dried in a laminar flow cabinet for 1 h under ambient conditions. The disks were then placed in a glass chamber (20 +/- 1 degree C) with the relative humidity at either low (20 +/- 5%), medium (50 +/- 5%), or high (80 +/- 5%) level. At appropriate intervals, the disk to be tested was placed in 1 mL of tryptose phosphate broth and the eluate titrated in A-5 HeLa cells. When the virus was suspended in either tryptose phosphate broth, mucin, or the nasal discharge and subjected to initial drying, there was a 3.0 +/- 1.0, 82.0 +/- 6.7, and 89.0 +/- 3.0% loss in virus infectivity, respectively. The half-life of the TPB-suspended virus was about 14 h at the high relative humidity as compared with less than 2 h at the other two relative humidity levels. The half-lives for the mucin-suspended virus at the high, medium, and low relative humidity were 1.42, 0.55, and 0.24 h, respectively; the corresponding values for the nasal discharge suspended virus being 0.17, 0.25, and 0.09 h.