Significance of Fomites in the Spread of Respiratory and Enteric Viral Disease



Worldwide annually there are 1.7 million deaths from diarrheal diseases and 1.5 million deaths from respiratory infections. Viruses cause an estimated 60% of human infections, and most common illnesses are produced by respiratory and enteric viruses. Unlike bacterial disease, viral illness cannot be resolved with the use of antibiotics. Prevention and management of viral disease heavily relies upon vaccines and antiviral medications. Both vaccines and antiviral medications are only 60% effective. Additionally, to date there are no vaccines or antiviral drugs for most common enteric and respiratory viruses with the exception of influenza virus and hepatitis A virus (HAV). Consequently, viral disease spread is most effectively deterred by preclusion of viral infection …There is now growing evidence that contaminated fomites or surfaces play a key role in the spread of viral infections …The rapid spread of viral disease in crowded indoor establishments, including schools, day care facilities, nursing homes, business offices, and hospitals, consistently facilitates disease morbidity and mortality. Yet, fundamental knowledge concerning the role of surfaces and objects in viral disease transmission is lacking, and further investigation is needed. The goal of this article was to use existing published literature to assess the significance of fomites in the transmission of viral disease by clarifying the role of fomites in the spread of common pathogenic respiratory and enteric viruses.




Stephanie A. Boone*
Charles P. Gerba


Department of Soil, Water and Environmental Science, University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona 85721


*Corresponding author. Mailing address: University of Arizona, 1117 East Lowell Street Building 90, Room 415, Tucson, AZ 85721. Phone: (520) 621-6910. Fax: (520) 621-6366. E-mail: [email protected]