NIH finds new coronavirus stable for hours on everyday surfaces

March 23, 2020

A new study led by scientists from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), US, has found that the new coronavirus, which causes the deadly respiratory disease COVID-19, remains stable for hours on various surfaces, and suggests that people may acquire the virus through the air and after touching contaminated objects. The study also provides key information about the stability of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) – it is indeed similar to SARS-CoV-1, previously eradicated by intensive contact tracing and case isolation measures; no cases have been detected since 2004.

The NIH study attempted to mimic virus being deposited from an infected person onto everyday surfaces in a household or hospital setting, such as through coughing or touching objects. The scientists then investigated how long the virus remained infectious on these surfaces. Shockingly, SARS-CoV-2 was detectable in aerosols for up to three hours, up to four hours on copper, up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to two to three days on plastic and stainless steel.

But despite its similar behaviour to its predecessor, the NIH scientists cannot yet explain why COVID-19 has become a much larger outbreak.Emerging evidence suggests that people infected with SARS-CoV-2 might be spreading virus without recognising symptoms. This would make disease control measures that were effective against SARS-CoV-1 less effective against SARS-CoV-2. In addition, most secondary cases of virus transmission of SARS-CoV-2 appear to be occurring in community settings rather than healthcare settings, which is much harder to control and contain.

Public health professionals nevertheless use precautions similar to those for other respiratory viruses to prevent the spread of SARS-CoV-2, namely, to avoid close contact with people who are sick; to avoid touching one’s eyes, nose, and mouth; and to frequently clean and disinfect commonly used objects/surfaces.


Category: Education, Features

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