Virologists warned the public ahead of the Soccer World Cup on Tuesday that the H1N1 virus could survive up to 48 hours outside the human body -- more than enough time to infect people.
"The idea that H1N1 is a mild virus is wrong -- it is not mild; if it has killed people," Global Hygiene Council chairman John Oxford said in a statement.
The 2010 Soccer World Cup will take place during winter months when the virus was more prevalent.
"As the soccer tournament will take place during winter, the Global Hygiene Council specifically highlighted the danger posed by the potential incidence of a third wave of the H1N1 flu virus," said a media statement released by the Global Hygiene Council which is currently meeting in Johannesburg.
Virus infectious for a long time
Research by the council showed that the virus "can remain infectious on various surfaces for a surprisingly long period of time".
"For example, it remains contagious on cloth surfaces for an hour ,and survives on stainless steel and plastic surfaces for up to 24 hours. On wooden surfaces, the virus can survive for up to 48 hours," said the council.
The first line of defence against the virus was regular hand-washing, particularly after touching phones, door handles and hand rails.
South African virologist Barry Schoub said any event bringing together "Dense concentrations of people" posed health risks, including risks to food safety, water quality, toilet facilities and the risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases. Any event with a large influx of people will strain the capacity for handling health issues -- good hygiene practices are important for preventing or containing communicable diseases," said Schoub. - (Sapa, May 2010)