As the COVID-19 coronavirus continues to spread around the globe, so has our fear of touching different surfaces.
In day to day life, it is now not uncommon to see people trying to open doors with their sleeves or elbows, or commuters trying to avoid grabbing a handle or handrail.
So how long can this highly contagious disease remain on surfaces?
Well according to a new study carried out by scientists from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, the highly contagious COVID-19 can remain viable and infectious for hours in droplets in the air and for days on surfaces.
The scientists attempted to copy the virus deposited from an infected person and place it on everyday surfaces in the home and hospital settings. They did this by using a device to dispense an aerosol that imitated the microscopic droplets created through a sneeze or a cough.
The study that appeared online, in the New England Journal of Medicine, stated that scientists then continued to investigate how long the virus remained on those surfaces.
The test results showed that the virus is carried by droplets that are released from a person when they cough or sneeze. And that virus is still able to infect other people for at least three hours.
The experiment then went on to show that the virus could still be detected on stainless steel or plastic, after three days.
After 24 hours the virus was not detectable on cardboard, and on copper, it took the virus four hours to become inactivated.
The research team also found that in terms of half-life, it takes about 66 minutes for half of the virus to lose purpose, if they are in an aerosol droplet.
This means that three-quarters of the disease particles will essentially be inactivated after another one hour and six minutes, but 25% will still be viable.
According to the research led by Neeltje van Doremalen of NIAID’s Montana facility at Rocky Mountain Laboratories, the amount of viable virus will be down to 12.5% at the end of the third hour.
Other surface results showed that it takes 5 hours and 38 minutes for half of the particles to become inactive on stainless steel and on plastic it takes 6 hours and 49 minutes.
The half-life on cardboard was about three hours, thirty minutes, but the team of researchers said they “advise caution” as there was a lot of variability in the cardboard results.
During the study, it was found that the shortest survival time of the virus was on copper, as it became inactivated within just 46 minutes.
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