Coronavirus Lives on Surfaces for Days

From NPR

A new study out this weeks finds disturbing information about the viability of the novel coronavirus.

 A study out this week finds that the virus can survive on hard surfaces such as plastic and stainless steel for up to 72 hours and on cardboard for up to 24 hours.

The author of the study, James Lloyd-Smith, is an assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of California, Los Angeles, and researches how pathogens emerge.

The WHO has previously estimated that the virus can survive on surfaces for “a few hours to a few days,” but this is the first study by scientists at a federal laboratory to test the actual virus causing the current pandemic, SARS-CoV-2.

The study did find some surfaces to be less tolerable to SARS-CoV-2, such as copper, where the virus remained viable for only about four hours.

The virus viability is also susceptible to environmental conditions such as humidity, temperature, and light. If the virus contacts a sunny windowsill or countertop, it may not live as long.

Viability on other surfaces such as clothing or carpet is still unknown, although it seems “flat surfaces and hard surfaces are more friendly to viruses than cloth or rough surfaces.”

And how about food? “Food is probably not a major risk factor here,” Kuritzkes says. That’s because most infection from the new coronavirus starts with the respiratory system, not the digestive tract. So infection comes from getting the virus on your hands and then touching your own eyes, nose and mouth. “Of more concern would be utensils, and plates and cups that might be handled by a large number of people in a cafeteria setting, for example,” he says.

The good news about this virus is that it is not difficult to clean away, and does not require any special cleaning chemical to disinfect surfaces and hands. Soap and water works well. If you use a wipe, make sure it is alcohol based, not a baby wipe, or you can instead buy an EPA-registered disinfecting spray, such as one on this list from the Center for Biocide Chemistries, recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

You can also make your own spray by mixing 4 teaspoons bleach per quart of water.

Again, if you’ve been in public touching other surfaces, wash your hands for 20 seconds.  Spend some time rubbing the backs of your hands as well as the front, interlace your fingers and pull them through, soap up each thumb with the opposite hand and, finally, to keep your fingernails virus-free, lightly scratch them against your palm. 

Hand washing is preferred to hand sanitizer, but if you use it, make sure it is at least 60% alcohol.

Don’t forget your cell phone. You can be squeaky clean after washing your hands, but if you pick up a dirty cell phone, you’ve undone all the good. It doesn’t take much, a simple wipe down with an alcohol based sanitizer for just a few seconds is sufficient.

Keep your hands off your face, as we are prone to touching our eyes, nose, and mouth multiple times during a day, and they are viable entry points for a virus to enter our system. As a way to train ourselves from touching our faces, a recommended method is to dig your fingernails into a raw onion. With the strong smell on your fingers, you will note how often you touch your face — or it may make your eyes water any potential viruses away.