Coronavirus can survive up to 3 hours in aerosols and up to 3 days on some surfaces, peer-reviewed study finds

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COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus is “stable for several hours to days” in aerosols and on surfaces, including plastic and stainless steel, according to a study published in the peer-reviewed The New England Journal of Medicine Wednesday.

The study was coauthored by scientists at the National Institutes of Health, the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, UCLA and Princeton University. It was made available in print form on Monday, and aims to provide more clarity on the virus’s contagiousness.

The scientists found that severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 or SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, was detectable in the air for up to 3 hours, up to 4 hours on copper, up to 24 hours on cardboard, and up to 2 to 3 days on plastic and stainless steel.

In contrast to SARS-CoV-1, most secondary cases of SARS-CoV-2 transmission appear to be occurring in community settings rather than health-care settings.

Study published by The New England Journal of Medicine.

The results of the study provide additional insight into the stability of SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19, and suggests that people may acquire the virus through the air and after touching contaminated objects, according to the authors.

How long the virus remains “stable” — the term used by the researchers — would likely depend on the humidity and temperature of the room, and other variables including air-conditioning, open windows and the general air quality, advise using such results as a guide, experts say.

SARS-CoV-1, the disease that infected over 8,000 people in China in 2002-03, is the human coronavirus most closely related to the latest outbreak. They behaved most similarly, which unfortunately fails to explain why COVID-19 has become a much larger outbreak, the authors said.

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One theory: Emerging evidence suggests that people infected with COVID-19 might be spreading the virus without recognizing, or prior to recognizing, symptoms. This would make disease-control measures that were effective against SARS-CoV-1 “less effective against its successor.”

In contrast to SARS-CoV-1, most secondary cases of the latest coronavirus transmission appear to be occurring in community settings rather than health-care settings, the authors wrote. However, the latter are also vulnerable to the introduction and spread of COVID-19. They recommend:

• Avoiding close contact with people who are sick.

• Avoiding touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.

• Staying home when you are sick.

• Covering your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throwing the tissue in the trash.

• Cleaning and disinfecting frequently-touched objects and surfaces with a cleaning spray or wipe.

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MarketWatch photo illustration/iStockphoto

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As of Wednesday morning, there have been 204,255 confirmed cases worldwide and 8,243 deaths, according to data aggregated by the Johns Hopkins Whiting School of Engineering’s Centers for Systems Science and Engineering.

Governments and pharmaceutical companies around the world are in race to stem the spread of COVID-19 with both prevention measures and vaccine research. There have been 6,510 confirmed cases in the U.S. and 114 coronavirus-related deaths, John Hopkins added.

Access and availability of testing in the U.S. have become some of the most pressing concerns for Americans. Some hospitals implemented drive-through testing sites, while the Trump administration has promoted a site built by Verily, Alphabet Inc.’s GOOGL, -4.79%  life-sciences arm.

How COVID-19 is transmitted