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J Infect Dis. 2018 Jul 24;218(5):739-747. doi: 10.1093/infdis/jiy221.

Influenza Virus Infectivity Is Retained in Aerosols and Droplets Independent of Relative Humidity.

Author information

1
Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pennsylvania.
2
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg.
3
Department of Environmental Health Sciences, University of South Carolina, Columbia.
4
Department of Medicine, Division of Pulmonary, Allergy, and Critical Care Medicine, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pennsylvania.

Abstract

Pandemic and seasonal influenza viruses can be transmitted through aerosols and droplets, in which viruses must remain stable and infectious across a wide range of environmental conditions. Using humidity-controlled chambers, we studied the impact of relative humidity on the stability of 2009 pandemic influenza A(H1N1) virus in suspended aerosols and stationary droplets. Contrary to the prevailing paradigm that humidity modulates the stability of respiratory viruses in aerosols, we found that viruses supplemented with material from the apical surface of differentiated primary human airway epithelial cells remained equally infectious for 1 hour at all relative humidities tested. This sustained infectivity was observed in both fine aerosols and stationary droplets. Our data suggest, for the first time, that influenza viruses remain highly stable and infectious in aerosols across a wide range of relative humidities. These results have significant implications for understanding the mechanisms of transmission of influenza and its seasonality.

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