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Environmental viral contamination in a pediatric hospital outpatient waiting area: Implications for infection control

      Background

      Nosocomial outbreaks of viral etiology are costly and can have a major impact on patient care. Many viruses are known to persist in the inanimate environment and may pose a risk to patients and health care workers. We investigate the frequency of environmental contamination with common health care–associated viruses and explore the use of torque-teno virus as a marker of environmental contamination.

      Methods

      Environmental screening for a variety of clinically relevant viruses was carried out over 3 months in a UK pediatric hospital using air sampling and surface swabbing. Swabs were tested for the presence of virus nucleic acid by quantitative polymerase chain reactions.

      Results

      Viral nucleic acid was found on surfaces and in the air throughout the screening period, with adenovirus DNA being the most frequent. Door handles were frequently contaminated. Torque-teno virus was also found at numerous sites.

      Conclusion

      Evidence of environmental contamination with viral pathogens is present in health care environments and may be indicative of an infectious virus being present. Screening for viruses should be included in infection control strategies. Torque-teno virus may provide a better marker of contamination and reduce time and cost of screening for individual viruses.

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