Environmental contamination by SARS-CoV-2 in a designated hospital for coronavirus disease 2019

Am J Infect Control. 2020 Aug;48(8):910-914. doi: 10.1016/j.ajic.2020.05.003. Epub 2020 May 12.


Background: Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is characterized by risk of nosocomial transmission; however, the extent of environmental contamination and its potential contribution of environmental contamination to SARS-CoV-2 transmission are poorly understood. This study aimed to investigate whether environmental contamination may play a role in SARS-CoV-2 transmission.

Methods: Air samples were collected by natural precipitation, and environmental surface samples were collected by conventional surface swabbing. SARS-CoV-2 RNA detection was performed using reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction.

Results: Viral RNA was not detected in the 44 air samples. The positive rates in 200 environmental surface samples in medical areas (24.83%) was higher than that in living quarters (3.64%), with a significant difference (P < .05). The positive rates were 25.00% and 37.50% for the general isolation ward and intensive care unit, respectively, and no significant difference was observed between them (P = .238). The top 5 sampling sites with a positive rate in medical areas were beepers (50.00%), water machine buttons (50.00%), elevator buttons (42.86%), computer mouses (40.00%), and telephones (40.00%).

Conclusions: Most of the touchable surfaces in the designated hospital for COVID-19 were heavily contaminated, suggesting that the environment is a potential medium of disease transmission. These results emphasize the need for strict environmental surface hygiene practices and enhanced hand hygiene to prevent the spread of the virus.

Keywords: Air; Disinfection; Environmental surface; Hand hygiene; Hospital-associated infection.

MeSH terms

  • Betacoronavirus / isolation & purification*
  • COVID-19
  • Coronavirus Infections / virology*
  • Disease Outbreaks / prevention & control
  • Environmental Pollution / analysis*
  • Hospitals
  • Humans
  • Pandemics
  • Patients' Rooms
  • Pneumonia, Viral / virology*
  • SARS-CoV-2