Coronavirus exists in air for hours, days on contaminated surfaces: Report

A civil defense worker sprays disinfectant as a precaution against the coronavirus in Baghdad on March 11, 2020. (File photo: AP)

The coronavirus, officially known as COVID-19, can be caught through breathing infected air or after touching contaminated objects, according to a new report by National Institutes of Health (NIH), CDC, UCLA, and Princeton University scientists.

The virus is stable in air for up to three hours, the report found, and surfaces can still be infectious for up to three days on certain materials.

“The results provide key information about the stability of SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19 disease, and suggests that people may acquire the virus through the air and after touching contaminated objects,” NIH said in a statement.

The study found that the virus was detectable for up to four hours on copper and up to 24 hours on cardboard. The coronavirus lasts longer on plastic and stainless steel – up to two or three days.

The scientists compared the new coronavirus to the SARS outbreak in 2003-2003, the most closely related recent viral outbreak. In the study, both diseases behaved similarly, “which unfortunately fails to explain why COVID-19 has become a much larger outbreak.”

Emerging evidence suggests that the reason for the widespread nature of the coronavirus compared to SARS is likely because people infected with the new coronavirus are infecting others without recognizing any symptoms, the scientists suggested.

“This would make disease control measures that were effective against SARS-CoV-1 less effective against its successor,” the statement said.

The findings from the study suggested that various guidelines put in place by public health officials were of use in preventing the spread of the coronavirus including:

• Avoid contact with the sick,
• Avoid touching the face,
• The sick should stay at home,
• Cover all coughs and sneezes with a tissue, then dispose of the tissue, and
• Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces and objects regularly.

The coronavirus has caused widespread shut downs across the world as authorities move to contain its spread. The virus has infected over 200,000 people worldwide, with over 8,000 dead. More fatalities have been reported in Europe than in Asia, where China was the epicenter of the virus.

In the Middle East, borders have been closed and authorities restricting travel to certain countries or for citizens to leave the country altogether.

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