Study objective. The objective of this study was to determine the prevalence of rotavirus contamination on environmental surfaces in day-care environments, using the polymerase chain reaction technique.

Design. High-risk fomites were identified in two day-care centers and sampled biweekly during a 6-month study period. Water samples from water-play tables in each center were also collected during the study period. During an infectious disease outbreak, fomites were sampled from the rooms in which the outbreak occurred. Reverse transcriptase/polymerase chain reaction was carried out for viral detection of rotavirus from the fomites, and standard bacteriologic measures were used to detect bacteria in samples from water-play tables.

Results. A total of 96 fomite samples were tested for presence of rotavirus from the two centers, of which 18/96 (19%) tested positive for rotavirus. The timing of the positive samples differed between the two centers. In the center that housed infants, a peak of rotavirus-positive fomites coincided with two enteric outbreaks. Rotavirus contamination was found on the telephone receiver, drinking fountain, water-play table, and toilet handles in both centers. Bacteria in large quantities were also identified in water-play table samples.

Conclusions. Moist surfaces including the telephone, water fountains, and water-play tables are common sources of rotavirus contamination within the day-care environment. Until a safe and affordable drug or vaccine against rotavirus is available for general use, avoidance of rotaviral infections is the most effective method for the prevention of rotavirus gastroenteritis.

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