Influenza Transmission via Hands and Environmental Surfaces

To investigate the transmission of influenza viruses via hands and environmental surfaces, the survival of laboratory-grown influenza A and influenza B viruses on various surfaces was studied. Both influenza A and B viruses survived for 24-48 hr on hard, nonporous surfaces such as stainless steel and plastic but survived for <8-12 hr on cloth, paper, and tissues.

Measurable quantities of influenza A virus were transferred from stainless steel surfaces to hands for 24 hr and from tissues to hands for up to 15 min. Virus survived on hands for up to 5 min after transfer from the environmental surfaces. These observations suggest that the transmission of the virus from donors who are shedding large amounts could occur for 2-8 hrs via stainless steel surfaces and for a few minutes via paper tissues.

Thus, under conditions of heavy environmental contamination, the transmission of influenza virus via fomites may be possible.


B. Bean, B. M. Moore, B. Sterner, L. R. Peterson, D. N. Gerding, H. H. Balfour Jr.

Author Affiliations

Department of Medicine, Veterans Administration Medical Center; and the Departments of Pediatrics and Laboratory Medicine and Pathology, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota

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