Transmission routes of respiratory viruses among humans

Curr Opin Virol. 2018 Feb;28:142-151. doi: 10.1016/j.coviro.2018.01.001. Epub 2018 Jan 17.


Respiratory tract infections can be caused by a wide variety of viruses. Airborne transmission via droplets and aerosols enables some of these viruses to spread efficiently among humans, causing outbreaks that are difficult to control. Many outbreaks have been investigated retrospectively to study the possible routes of inter-human virus transmission. The results of these studies are often inconclusive and at the same time data from controlled experiments is sparse. Therefore, fundamental knowledge on transmission routes that could be used to improve intervention strategies is still missing. We here present an overview of the available data from experimental and observational studies on the transmission routes of respiratory viruses between humans, identify knowledge gaps, and discuss how the available knowledge is currently implemented in isolation guidelines in health care settings.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aerosols
  • Disease Outbreaks
  • Humans
  • Influenza A virus / physiology
  • Influenza, Human / transmission*
  • Measles virus / physiology
  • Observational Studies as Topic
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / transmission*
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / virology*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Virus Diseases / transmission*


  • Aerosols