Bird Flu Alarm

2006-02-02-Copper could help stop bird flu

Understanding Avian Influenza

2006-02-02-Copper could help stop bird flu

Covering door handles, surfaces and sinks in hospitals with copper could help prevent the spread of flu viruses, including bird flu, researchers said.

The University of Southampton research team found that the influenza A (H1N1) virus was virtually eradicated within six hours on a copper surface.

The finding suggests using copper in hospitals may help stop flu spreading and reduce deaths, the team said.

It is also likely to have the same effect on the avian flu strain (H5N1).

The researchers said the H1N1 strain they tested in the research is nearly identical to the H5N1 avian strain, which should mean the effectiveness of copper's antimicrobial properties should be nearly identical as well.

Influenza A viruses cause seasonal flu, which lead to about 12,000 deaths every year in the UK.

99.9% reduction

Professor Bill Keevil and Dr Jonathan Noyce, from the university's School of Biological Sciences, put units of the H1N1 flu strain on samples of pure copper sheet metal and on common stainless steel.

They then left them at room temperature and checked the samples at regular intervals to see how the viruses were surviving.

On the stainless steel surface, the virus had only reduced by 50% after six hours, but on the copper surface they saw a 99.9% reduction after the same length of time.

Prof Keevil said the study showed that "door knobs and handles, push plates, countertops, sinks and other frequently-touched hardware in healthcare and other public facilities are prime candidates for use of copper alloys to help control the spread of infection".

The findings are set to be published later in the year but Prof Keevil said the current concerns about containing a potential outbreak of the avian flu strain had led them to release the results now.

Understanding Avian Influenza