New Coronavirus Stable for Hours on Surfaces
The virus that causes coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is stable for several hours to days in aerosols and on surfaces, according to a new study from NIH, CDC, UCLA and Princeton University scientists published in the New England Journal of Medicine. The scientists found that severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) was detectable in aerosols for up to 3 hours, up to 4 hours on copper, up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to 2 to 3 days on plastic and stainless steel. 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. The study information was widely shared during the past 2 weeks after the researchers placed the contents on a preprint server to quickly share their data with colleagues.
The NIH scientists, from NIAID’s Rocky Mountain Laboratories in Montana, compared how the environment affects SARS-CoV-2 and SARS-CoV-1, which causes SARS.
SARS-CoV-1, like its successor now circulating across the globe, emerged from China and infected more than 8,000 people in 2002 and 2003. SARS-CoV-1 was eradicated by intensive contact tracing and case isolation measures and no cases have been detected since 2004. SARS-CoV-1 is the human coronavirus most closely related to SARS-CoV-2.
In the stability study the two viruses behaved similarly, which unfortunately fails to explain why COVID-19 has become a much larger outbreak.
The NIH study attempted to mimic virus being deposited from an infected person onto everyday surfaces in a household or hospital setting, such as through coughing or touching objects. The scientists then investigated how long the virus remained infectious on these surfaces.