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Viruses spread by the respiratory tract, via droplets and fomites, are diverse in their biological properties and are commonplace in all populations. The diseases caused by these viruses, which occupy 11 different virus families and total about 270 serotypes, involve mainly the respiratory, conjunctival, and gastrointestinal tissues. Viruses with lipoprotein envelopes are labile and die quickly upon drying in the environment; viruses without an envelope are more stable and survive longer in air and on surfaces. The two oropharyngeal mycoplasmas have survival properties similar to enveloped viruses. All of these organisms can be sampled in air by impelling onto agar surfaces and eluting into cell culture medium for growth. Good personal hygiene, handwashing, and low humidity will decrease virus contamination.
viral diseases, respiratory viruses, mycoplasmas
research microbiologist, Center for Infectious Diseases, Centers for Disease Control, Atlanta, GA