This new study shows that norovirus genomes are frequently detected in the air of healthcare facilities during outbreaks, even outside patients' rooms. In vitro models also suggest this virus may withstand aerosolization. Noroviruses are responsible for at least 50% of all gastroenteritis outbreaks worldwide. Noroviruses GII can infect humans via multiple routes including direct contact with an infected person, contact with fecal matter or vomitus, and with contaminated surfaces.
Though norovirus is an intestinal pathogen, aerosols could, if inhaled, settle in the pharynx and later be swallowed. This study investigates the presence of norovirus GII bioaerosols during gastroenteritis outbreaks in healthcare facilities. A total of 48 air samples were collected during norovirus outbreaks in 8 healthcare facilities. Samples were taken 1 m away from each patient, in front of the patient's room and at the nurses' station. The resistance to aerosolization stress of murine norovirus MNV-1 bioaerosols was also tested in vitro using an aerosol chamber.
Norovirus genomes were detected in 6/8 healthcare centers. The concentrations ranged from 1.35×101 to 2.35×103 genomes per m3 in 47% of air samples. Norovirus MNV-1 preserved its infectivity and integrity during in vitro aerosol studies.
The study can be found at: Clinical Infectious Diseases 2015 DO: 10.1093/cid/civ321