Impact of a hygiene intervention on virus spread in an office building

Elkana K. Kurgat, Jonathan D. Sexton, Fernanda Garavito, Adriana Reynolds, R. David Contreras, Charles P. Gerba, Rachel A. Leslie, Sarah L. Edmonds-Wilson, Kelly A. Reynolds

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Viral illnesses have a significant direct and indirect impact on the workplace that burdens employers with increased healthcare costs, low productivity, and absenteeism. Workers' direct contact with each other and contaminated surfaces contributes to the spread of viruses at work. This study quantifies the impact of an office wellness intervention (OWI) to reduce viral load in the workplace. The OWI includes the use of a spray disinfectant on high-touch surfaces and providing workers with alcohol-based hand sanitizer gel and hand sanitizing wipes along with user instructions. Viral transmission was monitored by applying an MS2 phage tracer to a door handle and the hand of a single volunteer participant. At the same time, a placebo inoculum was applied to the hands of four additional volunteers. The purpose was to evaluate the concentration of viruses on workers' hands and office surfaces before and after the OWI. Results showed that the OWI significantly reduced viable phage concentrations per surface area on participants' hands, shared fomites, and personal fomites (p = 0.0001) with an 85.4% average reduction. Reduction of virus concentrations on hands and fomites is expected to subsequently minimize the risk of infections from common enteric and respiratory pathogens. The surfaces identified as most contaminated were the refrigerator, drawer handles and sink faucets in the break room, along with pushbar on the main exit of the building, and the soap dispensers in the women's restroom. A comparison of contamination in different locations within the office showed that the break room and women's restrooms were the sites with the highest tracer counts. Results of this study can be used to inform quantitative microbial risk assessment (QMRA) models aimed at defining the relationship between surface contamination, pathogen exposure and the probability of disease that contributes to high healthcare costs, absenteeism, presenteeism, and loss of productivity in the workplace.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)479-485
Number of pages7
JournalInternational Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 2019


  • Absenteeism
  • MS2 bacteriophage tracer
  • Office wellness interventions (OWIs)
  • Presenteeism
  • Viral infections
  • Workplace health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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