Norovirus is the leading cause of epidemic and sporadic cases of acute gastroenteritis worldwide.
An outbreak is a major threat to the smooth running and capacity of hospitals every winter.
Highly contagious… and in the air!
A study published in the Journal of Clinical Infectious Disease examined air samples taken from various locations around eight hospitals that had been affected by gastroenteritis outbreaks.
Airborne transmission of Norovirus has now been conclusively established
– john hopkins school of medicine
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
- 50% of nursing stations.
Viral concentrations ranged from 13 to 2,350 particles/m3 of air. A dose of 20 particles is enough to infect a healthy adult!
Another recently published study has explored just how and why nauseating Norovirus can spread so far and fast. The research team estimated that at least 13,000 particles of the virus can be released into the air in one vomiting episode.
“When one person vomits, the aerosolized virus particles can get into another person’s mouth and, if swallowed, can lead to infection…..Those airborne particles could also land on nearby surfaces like tables and door handles, causing environmental contamination. And norovirus can hang around for weeks, so anyone that touches that table and then puts their hand to their mouth could be at risk for infection.”
– Professor Lee-Ann Jaykus, N.C. State.
Emergence of a new Norovirus strain GII.17
There have been increased reports of a new strain of Norovirus, GII.17, which appears to be spreading globally. The lack of immunity against this new strain means that the bug could sicken hundreds of millions of people worldwide.
“We know that noroviruses are able to rapidly spread around the globe,” scientists from 16 countries wrote in a paper accompanying the Japanese research. “The public health community and surveillance systems need to be prepared in case of a potential increase of norovirus activity in the next seasons” caused by this novel strain.