Several health spas were closed temporarily because of possible nonvenereal spread of herpes simplex virus (HSV) in spa water at these facilities. We collected water specimens from two health spas and studied them for (1) the presence of HSV; (2) bromine (Br2), chlorine (Cl2), and pH levels; and (3) the ability of HSV to survive in water. No HSV could be isolated from the spa water specimens. Spa water had high levels of Cl2 and Br2, tap water specimens had low levels of Cl2, and distilled water had no detectable Cl2 or Br2. The addition of spa water to laboratory stock virus immediately inactivated the virus. The HSV survived four hours in the tap water and 24 hours in distilled water. The survival of HSV appeared to be related to the free halogen content of water. To approximate the conditions of survival of HSV on plastic-coated benches and seats in spa facilities, HSV was placed on plastic surfaces in a humid atmosphere at 37 to 40 °C. The virus was found to survive up to 4.5 hours under these conditions. The survival of HSV from human lesions may be different due to the presence of tissue secretions and proteins. Furthermore, transmission may require other factors, such as rubbing of skin or penetration through abrasions. However, survival of significant amounts of virus for 4.5 hours on plastic surfaces suggests that fomites such as these may be nonvenereal routes of HSV transmission.
Nerurkar LS, West F, May M, Madden DL, Sever JL. Survival of Herpes Simplex Virus in Water Specimens Collected From Hot Tubs in Spa Facilities and on Plastic Surfaces. JAMA. 1983;250(22):3081–3083. doi:10.1001/jama.1983.03340220049032
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