A new study conducted by scientists finds Noroviruses, a group of viruses responsible for over half of global gastroenteritis cases, can spread by air up to several meters from an infected person.
Gastroenteritis or infectious diarrhea is a common condition where the stomach and intestines become inflamed. The new findings suggest that measures applied in hospitals during gastroenteritis outbreaks may be insufficient to effectively contain this kind of infection.
"The measures applied in hospital settings are only designed to limit direct contact with infected patients," said lead researcher Caroline Duchaine, professor at the Laval University in Canada. "In light of our results, these rules need to be reviewed to take into account the possibility of airborne transmission of noroviruses. Use of mobile air filtration units or the wearing of respiratory protection around patients with gastroenteritis are measures worth testing," Duchaine noted.
The researchers gathered air samples at a distance of one meter from patients, at the doors to their rooms, and at nursing stations.
Noroviruses were found in the air at six of the eight facilities studied. The viruses were detected in 54% of the rooms housing patients with gastroenteritis, 38% of the hallways leading to their rooms, and 50% of nursing stations.
Virus concentrations ranged from 13 to 2,350 particles per cubic meter of air. A dose of 20 norovirus particles is usually enough to cause gastroenteritis.
The study appeared in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases