Get the details: Longevity of the virus in air and on different surfaces

Scientists around the world are still only learning about the novel coronavirus and the most common question that is raised about the virus is about its longevity in different environments. A new paper published in the New England Journal of Medicine on Tuesday talks about the survival rate of the virus in different surfaces. The total life-span of the virus will help us understand its survival rate and also about how contagious it could be.

Coronavirus pandemic: 3 hours in the air, but weaker

The scientists in different parts of the United States, found through their experiments that the SARS-CoV-2 virus could survive in air for about three hours. However, their ability to infect was severely weakened during this time. As of now, it is believed that the virus cannot survive in air and so the risk of infection through air was low. New research say that the virus does survive in air even if it is for a short period of time forcing scientists and health officials to reassess the risk to people, especially to health workers who spend a lot of time near an infected person. “Our results indicate that aerosol (air) transmission of SARS-CoV2 is plausible, since the virus can remain viable and infectious in aerosols for hours…,” the study says.

Yet a lot more to learn

The scientists said the survivability of the SARS-CoV-2 virus on plastic and steel was not drastically different from that of the SARS-CoV-1 virus, which had a similar but less deadly outbreak in mainly Asian countries in 2003. Therefore, it can be concluded that the reason for the much greater spread of SARS-CoV-2, as compared to the 2003 virus, “could arise from other factors (not any difference in their life spans), including high viral loads in the upper respiratory tract and the potential for persons infected with the SARS-CoV2 to shed and transmit the virus while (remaining) asymptomatic (without showing any symptoms of the disease)”.

Coronavirus: How to clean your homes and for how long?

A study published in The Journal of Hospital Infection in February, found that coronaviruses had the ability to survive between two and nine days on different dry surfaces such as metal, paper, glass, plastic, and wood. That study was not specific to SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus behind the current pandemic. That study concluded that since no specific therapy was available for SARS-CoV-2, “early containment and prevention of further spread” was the most crucial step in controlling its spread.

Strongest on plastic and steel

The new study finds that plastic and stainless steel surfaces are the most conducive for the survival of the virus. The virus was found to live for as long as three days on these surfaces. On cardboard surfaces, the survival rate was as low as just 24 hours. The survival rate on copper was the least. Here, it was as low as just four hours.

The longevity on each of these surfaces gives us details about the kinds of things that people can be advised to come in contact with, or avoid. For example, during times of extended isolation, or forced home stays, people are likely to come in contact with cardboard boxes for getting food and other products shipped to their residence. The fact that the virus does not survive beyond 24 hours on these surfaces might reduce worries on this front.