Role of viral bioaerosols in nosocomial infections and measures for prevention and control.


The presence of patients with diverse pathologies in hospitals results in an environment that can be rich in various microorganisms including respiratory and enteric viruses, leading to outbreaks in hospitals or spillover infections to the community. All hospital patients are at risk of nosocomial viral infections, but vulnerable groups such as older adults, children and immuno-compromised/-suppressed patients are at particular risk of severe outcomes including prolonged hospitalization or death. These pathogens could transmit through direct or indirect physical contact, droplets or aerosols, with increasing evidence suggesting the importance of aerosol transmission in nosocomial infections of respiratory and enteric viruses. Factors affecting the propensity to transmit and the severity of disease transmitted via the aerosol route include the biological characteristics affecting infectivity of the viruses and susceptibility of the host, the physical properties of aerosol particles, and the environmental stresses that alter these properties such as temperature and humidity. Non-specific systematic and individual-based interventions designed to mitigate the aerosol route are available although empirical evidence of their effectiveness in controlling transmission of respiratory and enteric viruses in healthcare settings are sparse. The relative importance of aerosol transmission in healthcare setting is still an on-going debate, with particular challenge being the recovery of infectious viral bioaerosols from real-life settings and the difficulty in delineating transmission events that may also be a result of other modes of transmission. For the prevention and control of nosocomial infections via the aerosol route, more research is needed on identifying settings, medical procedures or equipment that may be associated with an increased risk of aerosol transmission, including defining which procedures are aerosol-generating; and on the effectiveness of systematic interventions on aerosol transmission of respiratory and enteric viruses in healthcare settings.

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