[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The role of relative humidity in the aerosol transmission of influenza was examined in a simulated examination room containing coughing and breathing manikins.
Nebulized influenza was coughed into the examination room and Bioaerosol samplers collected size-fractionated aerosols (<1 µM, 1-4 µM, and >4 µM aerodynamic diameters) adjacent to the breathing manikin's mouth and also at other locations within the room. At constant temperature, the RH was varied from 7-73% and infectivity was assessed by the viral plaque assay.
Total virus collected for 60 minutes retained 70.6-77.3% infectivity at relative humidity ≤23% but only 14.6-22.2% at relative humidity ≥43%. Analysis of the individual aerosol fractions showed a similar loss in infectivity among the fractions. Time interval analysis showed that most of the loss in infectivity within each aerosol fraction occurred 0-15 minutes after coughing. Thereafter, losses in infectivity continued up to 5 hours after coughing, however, the rate of decline at 45% relative humidity was not statistically different than that at 20% regardless of the aerosol fraction analyzed.
At low relative humidity, influenza retains maximal infectivity and inactivation of the virus at higher relative humidity occurs rapidly after coughing. Although virus carried on aerosol particles <4 µM have the potential for remaining suspended in air currents longer and traveling further distances than those on larger particles, their rapid inactivation at high humidity tempers this concern. Maintaining indoor relative humidity >40% will significantly reduce the infectivity of aerosolized virus.
PLoS ONE 01/2013; 8(2):e57485. · 3.53 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The potential for aerosol transmission of infectious influenza virus (ie, in healthcare facilities) is controversial. We constructed a simulated patient examination room that contained coughing and breathing manikins to determine whether coughed influenza was infectious and assessed the effectiveness of an N95 respirator and surgical mask in blocking transmission.
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health aerosol samplers collected size-fractionated aerosols for 60 minutes at the mouth of the breathing manikin, beside the mouth, and at 3 other locations in the room. Total recovered virus was quantitated by quantitative polymerase chain reaction and infectivity was determined by the viral plaque assay and an enhanced infectivity assay.
Infectious influenza was recovered in all aerosol fractions (5.0% in >4 μm aerodynamic diameter, 75.5% in 1-4 μm, and 19.5% in <1 μm; n = 5). Tightly sealing a mask to the face blocked entry of 94.5% of total virus and 94.8% of infectious virus (n = 3). A tightly sealed respirator blocked 99.8% of total virus and 99.6% of infectious virus (n = 3). A poorly fitted respirator blocked 64.5% of total virus and 66.5% of infectious virus (n = 3). A mask documented to be loosely fitting by a PortaCount fit tester, to simulate how masks are worn by healthcare workers, blocked entry of 68.5% of total virus and 56.6% of infectious virus (n = 2).
These results support a role for aerosol transmission and represent the first reported laboratory study of the efficacy of masks and respirators in blocking inhalation of influenza in aerosols. The results indicate that a poorly fitted respirator performs no better than a loosely fitting mask.