At a Glance
- Scientists found that SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, can be discovered in aerosols for up to three hours and on vinyl and stainless steel surfaces for up to 3 times.
- The findings emphasize the need for handwashing and disinfecting often touched surfaces to protect against disease.
This transmission electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, isolated from a patient at the U.S., appearing in the surface of cells cultured in the laboratory. NIAID
Viruses can live for a time on surfaces beyond the human body. According to the CDC, it can be possible to contract the virus responsible for the current outbreak by touching a surface or object and then touching your face. However, SARS-CoV-2 is considered to spread via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
Researchers led by Dr. Vincent Munster of NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) examined how long the virus survives from the atmosphere and on surfaces. They mimicked viruses that are spread by an infected person onto everyday surfaces in a hospital or family surroundings. The team researched how long the virus remained infectious on those surfaces.
They compared the results to that of the closely connected SARS-CoV-1, that was in charge of the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in 2002-2004. The findings have been published on March 17, 2020, in the New England Journal of Medicine.
The viruses were analyzed by scientists on plastic, stainless steel, aluminum, and cardboard. They utilized a drum to suspend the virus in aerosols, a mist of droplets. This technique was used to determine if the virus may linger in the air.
SARS-CoV-2 stayed active on steel surfaces for two to three times under the conditions in this experiment. It remained infectious for up to 24 hours four hours and cardboard on copper. The virus was detectable in aerosols for as many as three hours. These times will change based on variables such as humidity, temperature, humidity, and the amount of virus deposited.
The results imply that individuals may acquire and after objects. However, although the viruses were able to infect cells in the laboratory, how much virus is very likely to cause diseases in people remains to be analyzed.
Since SARS-CoV-2’s equilibrium appears to be similar to that of the SARS virus, it is not apparent has caused a much larger outbreak. During the SARS epidemic, about 8,000 individuals in 26 states were infected. That outbreak was contained identifying those with exposure and by isolating people with SARS.
“These findings reveal that SARS-CoV-2 is quite similar to SARS-CoV-1 concerning stability in the environment,” states co-author Dr. James Lloyd-Smith at the University of California, Los Angeles. “This means we could learn from our experiences with SARS from 2002-2004 to gain insights into infection control, especially in healthcare settings. On the other hand, it indicates that the significant differences in the epidemiology of these viruses likely arise from other factors–notably the ability of SARS-CoV-2 to be transmitted by people not exhibiting clear symptoms.”
“These results will inform future epidemiologic investigations that will be essential to comprehend spread of the virus individual to person,” provides co-author Dr. Susan Gerber of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The findings underscore the importance of handwashing and disinfecting touched surfaces and items. This may be achieved with a regular household cleaning spray or wash. Try to avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth area. And to help stop the spread of coronavirus, avoid close contact with individuals who are sick and stay home if you’re sick yourself.