Infectious Diseases

How Long can Coronavirus Survive on Various Surfaces, and in the Air?

Posted on 21 April 2020

coronavirus

The COVID-19 pandemic is accelerating all over the world, and most countries have instituted some form of a lockdown to encourage social and physical distancing, which helps control the spread of SARS-CoV-2. But sooner or later we all have to venture outside our homes to get food, or get some fresh air. Nowadays when we venture outside we all wonder what surfaces can I touch? How long does the coronavirus live on various surfaces? How long does it linger in the air?

Worry not — we are here to help answer all those question with the best scientific research.

A recent research conducted at the US National Institutes of Health, and published in The New England Journal of Medicine compared how the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) is different from the previous SARS-CoV-1, in regards to how long it can stay on surfaces. The key takeaways from the research are:

  • Aerosolized coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) can be detected for 3 hours post aerosolization. In layman’s terms, if someone with COVID-19 sneezes the coronavirus particles can linger in the air for up to 3 hours.
  • On copper surfaces coronavirus can be detected for upto 4 hours.
  • Coronavirus can stay on cardboard for upto 24 hours.
  • And, coronavirus can stay on plastic, and stainless steel surfaces for upto 2 to 3 days.
How Long can Coronavirus Survive on Various Surfaces, and in the Air?
How Long can Coronavirus Survive on Various Surfaces, and in the Air?
Source: https://www.nejm.org/doi/10.1056/NEJMc2004973

Above is the image from the original research paper which shows the differences between the previous coronavirus (SARS-CoV-1), and the current SARS-CoV-2 which is the cause of COVID-19. The figure also highlights the half-lives of the coronavirus on various surfaces.

One key thing to note about this research is that it was conducted in the controlled environment of a laboratory, and this may not always reflect real-world conditions. Under real-world conditions the virus may degrade a bit slower, or faster on various surfaces depending on how many people are touching it, the amount of sunlight on it, and other environmental conditions. When returning home it is always advisable to wash your hands, and sanitize your belongings before making contact with your face, and other members of your household.


References

Aerosol and Surface Stability of SARS-CoV-2 as Compared with SARS-CoV-1: https://www.nejm.org/doi/10.1056/NEJMc2004973

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