Viruses spread everywhere within hours, new study claims

A virus can spread across a whole building in just two hours of coming into contact with only one surface, a new study has found.

A team of researchers, led by microbiologist Charles Gerba at the University of Arizona, Tucson, studied the spread of viruses such as the Norovirus, and found that once a virus contaminates a small surface, such as a single doorknob or light switch, it then can then spread quickly through an entire building.

courtesy of the Independent newspaper (

The team used a virus called ‘bacteriophage MS-2’ in their trials which is similar in size and shape and has similar resistance to disinfectants as the Norovirus which caused chaos across the UK and Europe last winter.

Placing it on a commonly touched surface at the beginning of the day in office buildings, a conference room and a health care facility in Arizona, the researchers then tested the surfaces which were capable carrying the infectious organism like coffee pot handles, sink tap handles, phones and computer equipment regularly for traces of the planted bacteriophage, at various times of the day, up to eight hours later.

What they found was that up to a staggering 60 per cent of the surfaces tested in the public spaces had been contaminated with the virus from as early as two hours after the first plant.

So the question is: how do we stop the spread of infectious viruses in public spaces? Mr Gerba told the Independent newspaper that disinfecting wipes which claimed to be effective against viruses such as Noro and Flu, reduced the spread by between 80 and 99 per cent

Mr Gerba’s research was presented to the 54th Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy (ICAAC) in Washington.

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