Aerosol and Surface Distribution of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 in Hospital Wards, Wuhan, China, 2020

14 Apr, 2020


To determine distribution of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 in hospital wards in Wuhan, China, we tested air and surface samples. Contamination was greater in intensive care units than general wards. Virus was widely distributed on floors, computer mice, trash cans, and sickbed handrails and was detected in air ≈4 m from patients.

As of March 30, 2020, approximately 750,000 cases of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) had been reported globally since December 2019 (1), severely burdening the healthcare system (2). The extremely fast transmission capability of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) has aroused concern about its various transmission routes.

The main transmission routes for SARS-CoV-2 are respiratory droplets and close contact (3). Knowing the extent of environmental contamination of SARS-CoV-2 in COVID-19 wards is critical for improving safety practices for medical staff and answering questions about SARS-CoV-2 transmission among the public. However, whether SARS-CoV-2 can be transmitted by aerosols remains controversial, and the exposure risk for close contacts has not been systematically evaluated. Researchers have detected SARS-CoV-2 on surfaces of objects in a symptomatic patient’s room and toilet area (4). However, that study was performed in a small sample from regions with few confirmed cases, which might not reflect real conditions in outbreak regions where hospitals are operating at full capacity. In this study, we tested surface and air samples from an intensive care unit (ICU) and a general COVID-19 ward (GW) at Huoshenshan Hospital in Wuhan, China (Figure 1).

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