What we know about coronavirus and surfaces: Researchers begin to put figures to one of the most widespread fears

Doorknobs, supermarket products, tickets or fasteners of public transport have been under suspicion for weeks. Could they be vehicles for the spread of the coronavirus? How long can the virus survive on those surfaces? To what extent could it be a real problem that was going unnoticed? The studies we had on other pathogens told us that, although they were not an important vector of their respective epidemics, it was possible (and worth considering).

Faced with uncertainty, many countries began to renew cash, clean surfaces and irrigate high traffic areas with disinfectant. With good judgment, we could say. The first solid studies that come to us begin to draw a scenario similar to the one we feared.

What do laboratory studies say?

In principle, according to this work published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the virus has a half-life of three hours in the air after being expelled when we cough or sneeze. However, both the microdroplets of flow (between 1 and 5 micrometers) and those of greater thickness can be deposited on various surfaces. Therefore, the question became relevant.

The team of researchers from UCLA, Princeton and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases selected various materials common in everyday life and sprayed the virus on them using a nebulizer (to simulate human sneezing). Subsequently, they studied the samples to see the evolution of the virus. The most important discovery is that, online from other viruses in the same family such as SARS and MERS, SARS-CoV-2 can maintain its infectious capacity for up to 72 hours.

According to their data, the virus can survive up to three days on plastic and stainless steel surfaces, 24 on cardboard and four on copper surfaces. In the case of clothing or sheets, the team believes the virus is unlikely to survive long (although more testing is needed in this case).

This gives us an interesting reference, but we must not forget that these are laboratory results and in the real world, with highly variable temperature and humidity conditions, survival times could also vary. However, the results coincide with the framework used by the World Health Organization and reaffirms the idea that contaminated surfaces are not as important a transmission vector as person-to-person transmission (as long as we follow the distancing instructions). social and hand washing).

Image | Kelly Sikkema

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