Environmental dissemination of respiratory viruses: dynamic interdependencies of respiratory droplets, aerosols, aerial particulates, environmental surfaces, and contribution of viral re-aerosolization

M. Khalid Ijaz, Syed A. Sattar, Raymond W. Nims, Stephanie A. Boone, Julie McKinney, Charles P. Gerba

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

During the recent pandemic of COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2), influential public health agencies such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have favored the view that SARS CoV-2 spreads predominantly via droplets. Many experts in aerobiology have openly opposed that stance, forcing a vigorous debate on the topic. In this review, we discuss the various proposed modes of viral transmission, stressing the interdependencies between droplet, aerosol, and fomite spread. Relative humidity and temperature prevailing determine the rates at which respiratory aerosols and droplets emitted from an expiratory event (sneezing, coughing, etc.) evaporate to form smaller droplets or aerosols, or experience hygroscopic growth. Gravitational settling of droplets may result in contamination of environmental surfaces (fomites). Depending upon human, animal and mechanical activities in the occupied space indoors, viruses deposited on environmental surfaces may be re-aerosolized (re-suspended) to contribute to aerosols, and can be conveyed on aerial particulate matter such as dust and allergens. The transmission of respiratory viruses may then best be viewed as resulting from dynamic virus spread from infected individuals to susceptible individuals by various physical states of active respiratory emissions, instead of the current paradigm that emphasizes separate dissemination by respiratory droplets, aerosols or by contaminated fomites. To achieve the optimum outcome in terms of risk mitigation and infection prevention and control (IPAC) during seasonal infection peaks, outbreaks, and pandemics, this holistic view emphasizes the importance of dealing with all interdependent transmission modalities, rather than focusing on one modality.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere16420
JournalPeerJ
Volume11
DOIs
StatePublished - 2023

Keywords

  • Aerial particulate matter
  • Aerosol transmission
  • Direct transmission
  • Droplet transmission
  • Fomite transmission
  • Re-suspension of virus
  • Respiratory virus
  • SARS-CoV-2

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences

Fingerprint

Dive into the research topics of 'Environmental dissemination of respiratory viruses: dynamic interdependencies of respiratory droplets, aerosols, aerial particulates, environmental surfaces, and contribution of viral re-aerosolization'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this