Transmission of SARS-Cov-2 and other enveloped viruses to the environment through protective gear: a brief review

EuroMediterr J Environ Integr. 2021;6(2):48. doi: 10.1007/s41207-021-00251-w. Epub 2021 Apr 7.


Over the past two decades, several deadly viral epidemics have emerged, which have placed humanity in danger. Previous investigations have suggested that viral diseases can spread through contaminants or contaminated surfaces. The transmission of viruses via polluted surfaces relies upon their capacity to maintain their infectivity while they are in the environment. Here, a range of materials that are widely used to manufacture personal protective equipment (PPE) are summarized, as these offer effective disinfection solutions and are the environmental variables that influence virus survival. Infection modes and prevention as well as disinfection and PPE disposal strategies are discussed. A coronavirus-like enveloped virus can live in the environment after being discharged from a host organism until it infects another healthy individual. Transmission of enveloped viruses such as SARS-CoV-2 can occur even without direct contact, although detailed knowledge of airborne routes and other indirect transmission paths is still lacking. Ground transmission of viruses is also possible via wastewater discharges. While enveloped viruses can contaminate potable water and wastewater through human excretions such as feces and droplets, careless PPE disposal can also lead to their transmission into our environment. This paper also highlights the possibility that viruses can be transmitted into the environment from PPE kits used by healthcare and emergency service personnel. A simulation-based approach was developed to understand the transport mechanism for coronavirus and similar enveloped viruses in the environment through porous media, and preliminary results from this model are presented here. Those results indicate that viruses can move through porous soil and eventually contaminate groundwater. This paper therefore underlines the importance of proper PPE disposal by healthcare workers in the Mediterranean region and around the world.

Keywords: Enveloped virus; Personal protective equipment (PPE); Virulence factor; Virus transmission.