If being booked on a cruise ship has you worried about Noroviruses, taking along respiratory protection masks or a mobile air filtration device might be a good idea. That’s because new research out of Quebec suggests that Noroviruses can spread in the air. As reported by Gastroenterology and Endoscopy News, a team led by a researcher with the Quebec Heart and Lung Institute has concluded that Norovirus can be spread by air up to several meters around an infected individual. Noroviruses are responsible for more than 50 percent of global gastroenteritis cases, or about 19 to 21 million illnesses a year in the United States alone. That total includes 56,000 to 71,000 hospital cases and 570 to 800 deaths per year. It was thought that contact with contaminated surfaces was required to spread the highly contagious virus, or through contact with infected individuals, fecal matter, or vomit, or through contaminated food. The new research suggests that the aerosolized virus would settle in the pharynx and be swallowed by the victim. The research on airborne Norovirus was conducted at eight hospitals and long-term care facilities in Canada that were experiencing gastroenteritis outbreaks. Air samples were taken at a distance of 1 meter from the doors to patient rooms and at nursing stations. Noroviruses — non-enveloped, single-stranded RNA viruses — were found in the air at six of the eight facilities in the study. The viruses were found in 54 percent of the rooms, 38 percent of the hallways, and at 50 percent of the nursing stations. The viral concentrations ranged from 13 to 2,350 particles per meter of air. A dose of 20 particles is usually enough to cause illness. Dr. Caroline Duchaine, who led the research, said the airborne transmission could explain why Norovirus is often hard to contain. She said that measures to contain the virus, especially in hospitals, need to be reviewed.
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