Two new research studies show severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) — the cause of COVID-19 disease — can remain stable and infectious on certain types of surfaces for longer time periods than previously estimated.
Research published in the New England Journal of Medicine shows the SARS-CoV-2 virus can remain active for up to four hours on copper, up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to two to three days on plastic and stainless steel. A second study in the Journal of Hospital Infection reports the virus can last up to nine days on surfaces such as metal, glass or plastic.
Adrian Cotton, MD, chief of medical operations at Loma Linda University Health, says the two new studies confirm that regular cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces plays a vital role in reducing the spread of COVID-19 disease.
“People touching their eyes, nose or mouth after contacting an infected surface is a major way COVID-19 disease spreads,” Cotton said. “But one minute spent properly cleaning infected surfaces significantly reduces the chance of disease spread.”
The Journal of Hospital Infection’s report indicates ethanol, hydrogen peroxide and sodium hypochlorite are most effective when used as surface disinfectants.
Cotton says this new information about the virus’s ability to remain viable for extended periods reinforces the need for each person to follow good hygiene habits to lower their risk of infection. These include:
• Wash your hands often for at least 20 seconds with soap and water after touching any potentially contaminated surface. An alcohol-based sanitizer can work in the absence of soap and water.
• Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
• Cover your mouth when you cough, or sneeze with a tissue and throw the tissue in the trash.
• Stay home when you’re sick.
“The COVID-19 situation changes daily,” Cotton says, “What we know doesn’t change is that each person who follows these five simple safety rules helps reduce the spread of COVID-19 through their community.”