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Demystifying the Lifespan of the Coronavirus

Demystifying the Lifespan of the Coronavirus

It is a known fact that the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) mainly spreads from person to person. The tiny droplets containing virus can quickly spread into the environment and infect anyone that comes into contact with them. According to WHO, the coronavirus can prevail for several hours to days on surfaces you touch frequently such as doorknobs, fabrics, utensils and countertops. Therefore, apart from social distancing, the best way to combat coronavirus is to keep surfaces in your home disinfected.

How long can COVID-19 survive on surfaces?

Researchers are yet to figure out a lot of details about the new coronavirus. We still don't know how weather parameters such as heat, cold, humidity and sunlight affect the presence of coronavirus on various surfaces.  A study by The New England Journal of Medicine that tested how long the virus can remain stable on different kinds of surfaces within a controlled laboratory setting, suggested that the coronavirus was detectable on copper for up to four hours, on cardboard for up to 24 hours, and on plastic and steel for up to 72 hours. As the amount of virus decreased rapidly overtime on contaminated surfaces so does the risk of infection from touching those contaminated surfaces.

According to the National Institute of Health and the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases, coronavirus can live on various surfaces for extended duration:

  • Up to 5 days - Metals (doorknobs, jewelry, silverware), glass (drinking glasses, measuring cups, mirrors, windows) and ceramics (dishes, pottery, mugs)
  • Up to 4 days – Wood (furniture, decking)
  • Up to 3 days – Plastics (packaging like milk containers and detergent bottles, subway and bus seats, backpacks, elevator buttons), Stainless steel (refrigerators, pots, and pans, sinks, some water bottles)
  • Up to 24 hours – Cardboard (shipping boxes)
  • Up to 8 hours- Aluminum (soda cans, tin foil, water bottles)
  • Up to 4 hours – Copper (pennies, teakettles, cookware)

Though the coronavirus doesn’t seem to spread through food and water, still it's a good idea to wash fruits and vegetables under running water before consuming them. People with weakened immune systems might want to buy frozen or canned produce to reduce the risk of coronavirus infection.

Why is it important to disinfect surfaces?

The amount of viral particles someone gets exposed to plays an important role on probability of catching the infection. The less the number of viral particles a person is exposed to, the less chance to get the infection. This is the reason why the amount of virus on a surface and the routine surface disinfection is important.

Though people are much more likely to get infected by coming in close contact with an infected individual than by touching a contaminated surface, it’s still important to be careful about cleaning hands and touching surfaces we come across in our daily lives. Surfaces in public places such as grocery stores, buses, trains and washrooms that are touched by lot of people should be specifically avoided.

Is it safe to receive a delivered package?

According to WHO, the risk of catching COVID-19 from a package that has been moved, travelled, and exposed to different conditions and temperature is also low. But there is a possibility that the person who delivered the package to your house is infected which can open the route for transmission. Once you get the packages it is best to open them quickly and throw away the cardboard. Always wash your hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds after handling the package and try to avoid touching your face.

Tips for cleaning surfaces

If you suspect infection, clean the surface with simple disinfectant to kill the virus and protect yourself and others. Avoid touching your eyes, mouth, or nose.  Clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water as recommended by World Health Organization (WHO).

To protect yourself from coronavirus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends disinfecting “high-touch” areas such as countertops, tables,  doorknobs, bathroom fixtures, phones, keyboards, remote controls, toilets etc.

To reduce your chance of catching or spreading coronavirus, clean and disinfect all surfaces and objects in your home and office every day especially high-touch surfaces, like door handles and toilets. Regular household cleaning sprays and wipes are effective, including bleach solutions and alcohol solutions of at least 70% alcohol. If the surfaces are dirty, clean them first with soap and water and then disinfect them. Coronavirus is an enveloped virus so it doesn’t survive well in soap and alcohol.  

 

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