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COVID-19 can survive in aerosol form and on hard surfaces from hours to days, new study shows

Published on 19/03/20 at 10:25am
Photo by CDC/Dr. Fred Murphy

New research shows that the COVID-19 coronavirus is stable for hours to days in aerosols and on surfaces.

 This study was carried out by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and published in The New England Journal of Medicine. According to the research, the droplets from a cough from a person with the virus can be stable for up to three hours. Depending on environmental factors, the droplets can remain suspended in the air.

The study attempted to mimic the ways that the virus can be transmitted from an infected person through coughing or touching the environment. They found that on hard surfaces such as copper, the virus was shown to be stable for up to three hours; on cardboard it was stable for a full day while it was stable for up to three days on plastics and stainless steel. The results point to people being infected with the virus through the air or after touching contaminated objects.

Much of this data was made public before it was published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Commenting on this evidence, Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, the head of the World Health Organization’s emerging diseases and zoonosis unit, said the airborne transmission was of particular concern for health workers dealing with the virus. “When you do an aerosol-generating procedure like in a medical care facility, you have the possibility to what we call aerosolize these particles, which means they can stay in the air a little bit longer. It’s very important that health-care workers take additional precautions when they’re working on patients and doing those procedures.”

The virus is particularly hard to contain due to people being able to spread it without showing symptoms. Most of the cases have been spread in community settings as opposed to hospitals.

Conor Kavanagh


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