WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 28, 2016

University of Arizona researchers present study on spread of flu virus

Contamination of a single tabletop or doorknob in office buildings, hotels and healthcare facilities could expose a majority of workers and visitors to the flu virus within hours, according to new research from the University of Arizona.

Researchers from the Gerba Environmental Labs at the university presented their research during the 54th Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy (ICAAC), an infectious disease meeting of the American Society for Microbiology, in Washington, D.C. over the weekend.

Using bacteriophage MS-2 as a stand-in for the human norovirus, the most common cause of the flu, the researchers placed the virus on one to two commonly touched surfaces at the start of the day. Between 60 and 100 surfaces were sampled after various periods of time-two to eight hours-to screen for the bacteriophages.

Charles Gerba, the head of Gerba Labs and presenter of the study, said, however, that using disinfecting wipes containing EPA-approved substances to kill viruses helped to cut the spread of the virus by 80-99 percent.

"The results shown that viral contamination of [surfaces] in facilities occurs quickly, and that a simple intervention can greatly help to reduce exposure to viruses," Gerba said.

Touching contaminated surfaces or objects and making contact with the mouth or eyes is a common source of flu infection. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, the stomach flu causes an estimated 19-21 million illnesses and results in more than 500 deaths and 56,000 hospitalizations per year.