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Why children’s toys should be disinfected

HealthBy Sunday World
Why children’s toys should be disinfected

Certain viruses, such as influenza, could survive on children’s toys long enough to result in exposures, placing children at risk of infectious diseases, research claims.

Researchers at Georgia State University have tested how long an enveloped virus could survive on pieces of a flexible plastic children’s toy, such as a squeaking frog.

They were able to recover infectious virions (complete viral particles) from the toy up to 24 hours after its contamination at 60 per cent relative humidity, and up to 10 hours at 40 per cent relative humidity. In the first two hours at 40 per cent humidity, 0.01 per cent of the virus remained, showing a 99.9 per cent reduction in the number of infectious viruses. Researchers were able to recover 0.0001 per cent of the infectious virus at 10 hours.

While this may seem a minimal amount, if any virus remains, there's a risk that children could become ill. Enveloped viruses have a protective outer layer that may help them survive and infect other cells. Examples of such viruses include influenza and Coronaviruses, such as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) or Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).

"People don't really think about getting viruses from inanimate objects," said lead author Richard Bearden II. "They think about getting them from other people. Children are vulnerable to contracting infectious disease because they put their hands and foreign objects in their mouths, and their immune systems aren't fully developed."

Toys may be an important channel for the transmission of viral diseases among children. Previous studies have found viral contamination of shared toys in daycares, doctor's offices and homes. In particular, toys in common play areas in healthcare settings have been implicated as vehicles for outbreaks of viral illness.

"I think the main focus should be for parents, daycare facilities, doctor's offices and other places where children share toys to implement some type of strategy for decontamination to make sure those toys aren't a reservoir for disease," he said.

For instance, toys that are shared should be decontaminated often. Household bleach is among the best cleaning solutions, researchers said. A decontamination plan could also include door handles, elevator buttons and other commonly shared surfaces.

The study was first published in The Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal.

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