From Our 2006 Archives
Hotel Stay? Say Gesundheit
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Cold Viruses May Linger in Hotel Rooms
Sept. 29, 2006 -- Cold viruses are slow to check out of hotel rooms, a new study shows.
"To my surprise, in a hotel room occupied overnight by an adult with a cold, everything from television remote controls, telephones, light switches, and faucets were contaminated" with cold viruses, says J. Owen Hendley, MD, in a University of Virginia Health System news release.
Hendley is a professor of pediatrics at the University of Virginia.
For the study, the professor and his colleagues had 15 adults who had just come down with a cold spend a night in a hotel room.
They checked samples of participants' nasal mucus and found rhinovirus, which causes about half of all common colds, the researchers note.
The hotel rooms the participants stayed in were equipped with facial tissues.
But that did not prevent contamination.
Participants were told to stay awake in the room at least five hours in the evening, sleep there overnight, and spend at least two hours awake in the room in the morning before leaving. They weren't allowed to have visitors.
The cold-sick adults were asked to wash their hands only after using the bathroom and to try to remember what room surfaces they touched.
Afterwards, the researchers swabbed the rooms for signs of rhinovirus.
The bug was all over the rooms, especially on door handles, pens, light switches, TV remote controls, faucets, and telephones.
"Altogether, 35% of the 150 environmental sites sampled in the room were positive," meaning they showed rhinovirus, the researchers write.
"The next time you stay at a hotel, knowing that rhinovirus may be left from the last guest, you may wonder how meticulous the cleanup crew was in their work," Hendley says.
Rendezvous at Hotel Gesundheit
In another test, six participants revisited the hotel a few months later.
This time, each person's hotel room had been deliberately contaminated with his or her own germy nasal mucus from the test before. It was put on the telephone, light switch, and other surfaces from one to 18 hours before the participants entered the rooms.
During the return trip, the participants' fingertips picked up rhinovirus from surfaces in 28 out of 60 trials, the researchers found.
Rhinovirus is most easily spread by hand-to-hand contact, but it can be passed less efficiently from surfaces for "at least one day," Hendley's team writes.
The study was funded by Reckitt-Benckiser, which makes Lysol. Two of the researchers (but not Hendley) are Reckitt-Benckiser employees.
SOURCES: American Society of Microbiology's 46th Annual Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy, San Francisco, Sept. 27-30, 2006. News release, University of Virginia Health System.
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