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Ecohealth. 2013 Jun;10(2):159-65. doi: 10.1007/s10393-013-0830-x.

Human exposure to particulate matter potentially contaminated with sin nombre virus.

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Montana Tech of the University of Montana, Butte, MT, USA.


The most common mechanism for human exposure to hantaviruses throughout North America is inhalation of virally contaminated particulates. However, risk factors associated with exposure to particulates potentially contaminated with hantaviruses are generally not well understood. In North America, Sin Nombre virus (SNV) is the most common hantavirus that infects humans, causing hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, which has a significant mortality rate (approximately 35%). We investigated human exposure to particulate matter and evaluated the effects of season, location (sylvan and peridomestic environment), and activity (walking and sweeping) on generation of particulates at the breathing zone (1.5 m above the ground). We found greater volumes of small inhalable particulates during the spring and summer compared to the fall and winter seasons and greater volumes of small inhalable particulates produced in peridomestic, compared to sylvan, environments. Also, greater volumes of particulates were generated at the breathing zone while walking compared to sweeping. Results suggest that more aerosolized particles were generated during the spring and summer months. Our findings suggest that simply moving around in buildings is a significant source of human exposure to particulates, potentially contaminated with SNV, during spring and summer seasons. These findings could be advanced by investigation of what particle sizes SNV is most likely to attach to, and where in the respiratory tract humans become infected.

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