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The Influence of Simulated Sunlight on the Inactivation of Influenza Virus in Aerosols

Schuit et al., The Journal of Infectious Diseases, doi:10.1093/infdis/jiz582
Nov 2019  
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Experimental study using a rotating drum chamber exposing influenza virus (H1N1 A/PR/8/34) in aerosols to varied levels of simulated sunlight, showing significantly increased viral decay rates with increasing light intensity. In darkness, the half-life was 31.6 minutes, while at full sunlight intensity the half-life was only 2.4 minutes. The effects were seen at both 20% and 70% relative humidity. The results suggest sunlight exposure strongly reduces the airborne transmission potential of influenza virus over longer distances or times, but transmission may still be possible over short ranges in full sunlight.
Schuit et al., 28 Nov 2019, USA, peer-reviewed, 7 authors. Contact:
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The Influence of Simulated Sunlight on the Inactivation of Influenza Virus in Aerosols
Michael Schuit, Sierra Gardner, Stewart Wood, Kristin Bower, Greg Williams, Denise Freeburger, Paul Dabisch
The Journal of Infectious Diseases, doi:10.1093/infdis/jiz582
Background. Environmental parameters, including sunlight levels, are known to affect the survival of many microorganisms in aerosols. However, the impact of sunlight on the survival of influenza virus in aerosols has not been previously quantified. Methods. The present study examined the influence of simulated sunlight on the survival of influenza virus in aerosols at both 20% and 70% relative humidity using an environmentally controlled rotating drum aerosol chamber. Results. Measured decay rates were dependent on the level of simulated sunlight, but they were not significantly different between the 2 relative humidity levels tested. In darkness, the average decay constant was 0.02 ± 0.06 min -1 , equivalent to a half-life of 31.6 minutes. However, at full intensity simulated sunlight, the mean decay constant was 0.29 ± 0.09 min -1 , equivalent to a half-life of approximately 2.4 minutes. Conclusions. Short-range aerosol transmission of the virus may be possible in full intensity sunlight, but the virus would be unlikely to survive in an infectious state over long distances. These results are consistent with epidemiological findings that sunlight levels are inversely correlated with influenza transmission, and they can be used to better understand the potential for the virus to spread under varied environmental conditions.
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