Coronavirus could remain on surfaces for up to nine days

Matt Woodley

14/02/2020 4:15:49 PM

Researchers have analysed the conditions that allow coronaviruses to persist, as well as the best ways to disinfect and limit their spread.

Hand on door handlie in a hospital.
Surfaces that are frequently touched by potentially infected carriers can be particularly vulnerable.

The research, published in the Journal of Hospital Infection, summarises everything that researchers know about the lifetime of coronaviruses on surfaces and the effect of disinfectants.
The newly named SARS-CoV-2 virus (formerly 2019-nCoV) is the latest member of the coronavirus family, which includes SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus) and the common cold.
The findings were derived from 22 studies that focused mainly on SARS and MERS. Co-author Professor Eike Steinman said results from the analyses should be transferable to the emerging coronavirus, which at last count had infected more than 60,000 people.
‘Different coronaviruses were analysed, and the results were all similar,’ he said.
‘Under the circumstances, the best approach was to publish these verified scientific facts … in order to make all information available at a glance.’
The evaluated studies showed that coronaviruses can persist on surfaces and remain infectious at room temperature for on average four to five days, but sometimes up to nine days.
Co-author Professor Günter Kampf, from the Institute of Hygiene and Environmental Medicine at the Greifswald University Hospital in Germany, said healthcare settings with surfaces that are frequently touched by potentially infected carriers can be particularly vulnerable.
‘In hospitals, these can be door handles, for example, but also call buttons, bedside tables, bed frames and other objects in the direct vicinity of patients, which are often made of metal or plastic,’ he said.
‘Low temperature and high air humidity further increase their lifespan.’
Despite concerns that the new coronavirus can be transferred through the air, the Australian Department of Health has indicated the most likely route for its spread is via droplets.
Professor Lyn Gilbert, Chair of the eight-member Infection Control Advisory Group (ICAG), which helps guide Australia’s coronavirus public health response, previously told newsGP exercising appropriate hygiene is a better safeguard against infection than protection against potential airborne transfer, such as the use of P2 respirators.
‘When people cough and sneeze, they either contaminate their hands or droplets fall on hard surfaces – people touching [these surfaces] is probably the major route as much as direct droplet spread,’ she said.
‘This is why we keep on emphasising hand hygiene and frequent cleaning of surfaces in rooms where patients who are infected have been.’
The research also shows tests with various disinfection solutions have revealed that agents based on ethanol, hydrogen peroxide or sodium hypochlorite are effective against coronaviruses.
According to the researchers, if applied in appropriate concentrations, the agents reduce the number of infectious coronaviruses by four so-called ‘log steps’ within one minute – essentially from one million to only 100 pathogenic particles.
At the time of publication there were 15 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Australia, although some GPs have expressed concerns that carriers may be slipping through the net due to current testing criteria.
The Australian Government has extended its travel ban for non-Australian citizens who have recently travelled to China for another week, after Chinese authorities had earlier revealed a record one-day number of confirmed cases and deaths related to the virus.
The RACGP has more information on coronavirus available on its website.
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