How long can the novel coronavirus live on different surfaces?
TORONTO -- The novel coronavirus can live on different surfaces, sometimes for several hours, after an infected person coughs or sneezes on them.
Aside from person-to-person transmission, the virus can also be spread indirectly, according to the World Health Organization. An infected person can transfer the virus by coughing or sneezing on a surface, or touching their face and then touching a surface. If someone else were to touch the same surface and then their own eyes, mouth or nose, for instance, they could become infected. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, while surface transmission isn’t the most common form of spreading the virus, it is a possibility.
Several studies have looked at the lifespan of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, as well as related coronaviruses on a number of surfaces to determine how long they are viable for.
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According to the New England Journal of Medicine, the virus can live on surfaces for a few hours or up to several days.
See below for a list of different settings and surfaces, and how long you can expect the novel coronavirus to live on them for, based on existing research from the New England Journal of Medicine and government agencies:
- Cardboard: On cardboard, the virus responsible for causing COVID-19 had a lifespan of about 24 hours.
- Copper: The novel coronavirus was able to live on a copper surface for up to four hours. Copper is known to be a natural antimicrobial with disinfecting properties.
- Plastic: The novel coronavirus was discovered on plastic up to 72 hours after being applied.
- Stainless Steel: The strain of the virus responsible for causing COVID-19 was detected up to 72 hours after being applied to a stainless steel surface.
According to the WHO, studies suggest the novel coronavirus cannot be transmitted by air. The respiratory droplets responsible for spreading the virus are too heavy to stay suspended in the air, instead falling onto the floor and nearby objects and surfaces right away. You can, however, become infected if you stand less than two metres away from someone with the virus who has coughed or sneezed.
In the same experiment conducted by the New England Journal of Medicine, the virus was able to live in the air for up to three hours, but it’s worth noting that aerosols often used in experiments are made up of particles smaller than the droplets released from a cough or sneeze, so they remain airborne for a longer period of time.
According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, people are not likely to contract COVID-19 through food. The agency says there’s no evidence to suggest that food is a likely source of transmission and as of now, there are no reported cases of COVID-19 being transmitted through food. The CDC adds that the risk of spreading coronavirus through food products is low, given that items are usually shipped over a period of days or weeks at room temperature, or refrigerated if necessary.
While the PHAC warns that products shipped within or from outside Canada could be contaminated, their risk of spreading COVID-19 remains low. According to the agency, there is no risk of any type of coronavirus entering Canada through parcels or packages. The CDC also claims the U.S. has not seen any cases of COVID-19 associated with imported goods.
CLEANING AND DISINFECTING
Health Canada recommends regularly cleaning and disinfecting these hard surfaces and others to limit the spread of COVID-19. To do this, the government agency advises using regular household cleaners according to label directions or diluted bleach. The suggested ratio is one teaspoon of bleach per cup (250 millilitres) of water or four teaspoons per litre (1,000 millilitres). This assumes the bleach is 5 per cent sodium hypochlorite, to give a 0.1 per cent sodium hypochlorite solution. Make sure not to use expired bleach and do not mix it with ammonia or any other cleanser.
The CDC also suggests that surfaces be cleaned using water with soap or detergent. Once the surface has been cleaned, it should be disinfected. Health Canada has compiled a list of disinfectants that meet its requirements for use against COVID-19. While these products don’t claim to kill the virus, they can certainly help limit its spread.
According to the CDC, alcohol solutions with at least 70 per cent alcohol can also be used as disinfectants. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has compiled a list of approved household disinfectants believed to be effective against COVID-19. It is advised to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for all cleaning and disinfection products.
Frequently touched objects that should be cleaned and disinfected include countertops, door handles, light switches, tables, keyboards, desks, toys, television remotes, electronics, phones, toilets, faucets and sinks.