Influenza viruses can spread through the air on dust, fibers and other microscopic particles, according to new research from the University of California, Davis, and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. The findings, with obvious implications for coronavirus transmission as well as influenza, are published Aug. 18 in Nature Communications.
“It’s really shocking to most virologists and epidemiologists that airborne dust, rather than expiratory droplets, can carry influenza virus capable of infecting animals,” said Professor William Ristenpart of the UC Davis Department of Chemical Engineering, who helped lead the research. “The implicit assumption is always that airborne transmission occurs because of respiratory droplets emitted by coughing, sneezing or talking. Transmission via dust opens up whole new areas of investigation and has profound implications for how we interpret laboratory experiments as well as epidemiological investigations of outbreaks.”