How do diseases transmit via surfaces?

It is common for many infectious diseases to transmit through surfaces (see figure below). Surfaces can include a range of commonly touched objects such as tabletops, door knobs, toys, light switches and other objects. Generally speaking, the likelihood of disease transmission through surfaces depends on the following factors: 

  • Amount of pathogen (virus) shed by infected individuals

  • Virus survival on surfaces

  • Rate of transfer from surfaces to hands or mouth

  • Number of viruses required to cause disease (infectious dose)

  • Resistance of the virus to disinfection

Surface-mediated transmission. Adapted from: Julian, 2010

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Editor's Note

Author: Karin Gallandat
Review: Karen Levy, Jacqueline Knee, Sian White, Robert Dreibelbis
Last Update: 15.04.2020

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