While people had to live with uncertainties since the outbreak of Covid-19, many are still unsure about the route of transmission of the virus especially when it comes to touching surfaces that could have been contaminated with the coronavirus.
According to a new study from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), University of California (UCLA) and Princeton University scientists, it has been found that the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2)—the strain that causes Covid-19—was detectable in aerosols for different time lengths on different surfaces. This particular update on the study was released yesterday (17 March).
The researchers conducted an investigation by mimicking the virus being deposited from an infected person onto everyday surfaces, via routes such as coughing or touching subjects (surfaces). The subjects they tested on were copper, cardboard, plastic and stainless steel.
The results showed that the virus is detectable on copper for up to three hours, up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to two to three days on plastic and stainless steel.
These results provide key information about the stability of SARS-CoV-2 suggesting that the virus can be acquired not only via air but also through touching contaminated objects, said the scientists.
Scientists under the NIH in the US compared how the environment would affect SARS-CoV-1 (the virus that causes SARS) and SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19). It was reported that SARS-CoV-1 was successfully eradicated back in 2004 by intensive contact tracing and case isolation measures, and no cases have been detected since.
Although SARS-CoV-1 is the human coronavirus that is the closest related to SARS-CoV-2 and both viruses behave similarly in terms of stability, scientists are still unable to explain why Covid-19 has a much larger outbreak as compared to SARS.
Emerging evidence suggests that people infected with SARS-CoV-2 might be spreading the virus without recognising, or without symptoms. This signifies that the disease control measures that were effective against SARS is less effective against Covid-19.
Compared to the transmission of SARS-CoV-1 that mostly occurred in healthcare settings, most of the secondary transmission of SARS-CoV-2 appears to occur in community settings. However, healthcare settings are still vulnerable to the introduction and spread of SARS-CoV-2. The stability of SARS-CoV-2 in aerosols on surfaces is likely to contribute to the transmission of this virus in healthcare settings.
To prevent the spread of the current Covid-19 virus, public health professionals recommended using similar precautions that are used to prevent the spread of influenza and other respiratory viruses. The recommended precautions are listed below:
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.