Norovirus Can Go Airborne When Infected Person Vomits: Study

Researchers say released particles can linger on surfaces for weeks, anyone who touches them at risk

WEDNESDAY, Aug. 19, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- When people infected with norovirus vomit, they release virus particles into the air that can infect other people, researchers report.

Norovirus is often called the "cruise ship" virus due to numerous outbreaks at sea. Norovirus infections cause symptoms such as nausea, stomach pain, vomiting and diarrhea.

Researchers created a device that simulated vomiting and used fake vomit contaminated with virus particles similar to norovirus. Their experiments showed that vomiting releases virus particles into the air.

The study was published Aug. 19 in the journal PLOS ONE.

"When one person vomits, the aerosolized virus particles can get into another person's mouth and, if swallowed, can lead to infection," study co-author Lee-Ann Jaykus, of North Carolina State University, said in a university news release.

Jaykus, a professor of food, bioprocessing and nutrition sciences, noted that airborne particles could also contaminate nearby surfaces such as tables and door handles, leaving anyone who touches those surfaces at risk of infection. Moreover, norovirus can linger for weeks, said Jaykus, director of the USDA-NIFA Food Virology Collaborative initiative.

Study corresponding author Francis de los Reyes III, a professor of civil, construction and environmental engineering at the university, said not a lot of the virus is aerosolized in terms of percentage. "But in absolute terms, it is a lot compared to the amount of virus needed to cause infection," he said in the news release.

The researchers plan to examine how long the virus particles remain airborne and how far they can travel in the air.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about norovirus.

Robert Preidt and Consumer news

Updated on May 31, 2022

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