Real Fact : How long will Coronavirus live on Surfaces or in the Air around
“Studies suggest that Coronaviruses (including preliminary information on the COVID-19 virus) may persist on surfaces for a few hours or up to several days. This may vary under different conditions (e.g. type of surface, temperature or humidity of the environment).” says the WHO.
A new study could have implications for how the general public and health care workers try to avoid transmission of the virus.
The Coronavirus can live for three days on some surfaces, like plastic and steel, new research suggests. Experts say the risk of consumers getting infected from touching those materials is still low, although they offered additional warnings about how long the virus survives in air, which may have important implications for medical workers.
The virus lives longest on plastic and steel, surviving for up to 72 hours. But the amount of viable virus decreases sharply over this time. It also does poorly on copper, surviving four hours. On cardboard, it survives up to 24 hours, which suggests packages that arrive in the mail should have only low levels of the virus — unless the delivery person has coughed or sneezed on it or has handled it with contaminated hands.
That’s true in general. Unless the people who handle any of these materials are sick, the actual risk of getting infected from any of these materials is low, experts said.
“Everything at the grocery store and restaurant takeout containers and bags could in theory have infectious virus on them,” said Dr. Linsey Marr, who was not a member of the research team but is an expert in the transmission of viruses by aerosol at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg. “We could go crazy discussing these ‘what ifs’ because everyone is a potential source, so we have to focus on the biggest risks.”
If people are concerned about the risk, they could wipe down packages with disinfectant wipes and wash their hands, she said.
That the virus can survive and stay infectious in aerosols is also important for health care workers.
For weeks experts have maintained that the virus is not airborne. But in fact, it can travel through the air and stay suspended for that period of about a half-hour.
The virus does not linger in the air at high enough levels to be a risk to most people who are not physically near an infected person. But the procedures health care workers use to care for infected patients are likely to generate aerosols.
“Once you get a patient in with severe pneumonia, the patients need to be intubated,” said Dr. Vincent Munster, a virologist at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases who led the study. “All these handlings might generate aerosols and droplets.”
Health care workers might also collect those tiny droplets and larger ones on their protective gear when working with infected patients. They might resuspend these big and small droplets into the air when they take off this protective gear and become exposed to the virus then, Dr. Marr cautioned.
Dr. Marr said the World Health Organization had so far referred to the virus as not airborne, but that health care workers should wear gear, including respirator masks, assuming that it is.
“Based on aerosol science and recent findings on flu virus,” she said, “surgical masks are probably insufficient.”
The WHO recommends cleaning a surface you think is infected with a simple disinfectant to kill the virus in order to protect yourself and others. “Clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water. Avoid touching your eyes, mouth, or nose.” recommends the WHO.
The latest misinformation doing the rounds claims that the ‘Janata Curfew’, a self-imposed 14-hour stay-at-home announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday, would stop the virus spread in one day. Specifically, the fake news wrongly claims that the life of the coronavirus is “only 12 hours” at one place and thus, with a 14-hour curfew in place on Sunday, March 22, India would emerge ‘virus-free’.