Understanding the Mechanism of Flu Transmission is the Key to Maintaining Safe Environments
It is important for the average non-medically trained individual to understand the difference between viruses such as H1N1 and other types of influenza and bacterial types of contaminants. This knowledge not only helps in preventing the spread of the disease but it is also key in determining how to make working, living and public environments much less likely to harbor the virus, reducing the risk of outbreaks.
The first thing to consider is that the H1N1 virus is a type of Influenza A virus and, as such, is much more difficult to destroy or kill than bacteria using standard sanitization protocols and procedures. In general a virus is a non-living inert cell that contains DNA or RNA surrounded by a protective shell. It does not need oxygen, food or water and it does not move on its own.
Steven Welty's report, "Swine H1N1 Influenza A" presented to the EPA in June of 2009, discusses the way in which viruses, including flu viruses, get into the human body. It is inhaled and moves rapidly deep into the lungs where it enters the bloodstream with the oxygen harvested by the lungs. The small sized virus is surrounded by docking sites which actually fool the human cell into thinking the virus is a good addition to the cell. Once the virus component docks with the cell it then invades the human cell and the RNA in the virus moves to the cell nucleus reproduction center. This is almost identical to the way that any type of influenza virus can invade and take over the function of human cells.
The RNA, tricking the cell into production of flu viruses, rapidly starts to produce clones of itself. When the number of clones reaches a critical level the human host cell ruptures and dies, releasing the clone flu virus cells into the blood to then infect other healthy human cells in the body.
From the understanding of the action of flu viruses in entering the body, issues such as washing your hands and cleaning surfaces are likely to have little impact on actually reducing your risk of inhaling these microscopic viruses. Covering your mouth when you cough and staying home from work when sick will help slightly, but between 30 and 50 percent of all people with various types of flu show no physical symptoms when they are actually spreading the virus around.
To make matters more complicated according to a SARS Virus Epidemic study in Hong Kong large droplets containing viruses can be dispersed up to 15 feet with coughing and 5 feet from sneezing, with the nuclei of those viruses traveling over 160 feet. The nuclei are complete dry and extremely light, capable of staying airborne indefinitely to continue to spread the virus wherever the breeze or movement of the air takes them.
Infectious Droplets & Droplet Nuclei Travel Lengths
Not only does the flu virus travel by direct human expulsion in breathing, coughing and speaking but it also moves through air passageways within an office, building, home or to the surrounding air outside. Cleaning the air through the use of UV lights that can sterilize and kill the RNA/DNA inside the nuclei of the flu virus is really the only effective solution.