Nasty stuff norovirus.
As common as the common cold but a great deal more unpleasant.
Like, 20 million Americans come down with it every year, according the US Centers for Disease Control – nearly 10% of all Yanks.
Hospital wards closed
We’re not much better in the UK either – 610 reported hospital outbreaks in 2013, 94% of them triggering ward closures.
Big time upchucking like that kinda explains why researchers at North Carolina State University and Wake Forest University have recently gone to so much trouble to make a vomiting machine.
If so many people are catching it, the stuff’s got to be airborne.
It’s certainly highly contagious. Spread mostly by touch from infected people – but also from fomites they have touched – door handles, phones, soap, salad servers, light switches – almost any surface is a transmission source.
Apparently the research machine is to prove that particles in airborne vomit spray can easily infect others if they are close enough.
And sure, looks like no doubt of it – the tests are pretty conclusive. The first DIRECT evidence of airborne distribution, according to researchers – happening by a process they call aerosolisation.
Maybe we’re a little slow, but if memory serves correctly norovirus particles are microscopic – around 38 nanometres across. That’s 0.038 microns, or 0.000038 millimetres.
Blowing in the wind
About the same size as atmospheric dust, which the wind regularly blows 3,000 miles from the Sahara desert and dumps on gleaming 4x4s parked in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.
Doesn’t that mean slightly airborne?
And it only takes 20 or so particles of norovirus to bring you down with gastroenteritis – around 0.00076 millimetres across. Still smaller than the POINT of a pin – and so light it’s heavier than the diesel-laden air around it.
Not only airborne, but light enough NEVER to touch ground again.
And that’s not just us guessing.
More tests, more tests
ANOTHER set of researchers – from Canada’s Université Laval and the Québec Heart and Lung Institute Research Centre – claim to be the first to quantify norovirus particles in the air, in concentrations varying from 13 to 2350 particles per cubic metre.
All tested in eight hospitals and written up in the influential magazine Clinical Infectious Diseases.
Seems you don’t need a vomit machine to prove the stuff is up there.
Any poor sod who’s unlucky enough to be near an existing sufferer can personally do the same.
Or anyone who breathes in a chance 20 particles walking down the street.
Yeah, it’s catching.
Hike up our hygiene
So wash your hands every chance you get.
And insist that the space you live and work in is properly treated with a Hypersteriliser. If you take out ALL viruses and bacteria, norovirus can’t get to you.
Because it would just be your luck to pick up the bug from somebody’s bio-cloud who was in the same room two days ago.
That would be us.
But it doesn’t have to be.