Ask Dr. Nandi: Coronavirus can survive 28 days on some surfaces

Posted at 5:42 PM, Oct 12, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-12 17:42:47-04

(WXYZ) — In today’s Health Alert, a new study contradicts the belief that the coronavirus survives only a few days on certain surfaces.

Australian scientists have found the virus can live a lot longer in the right conditions.

This is quite surprising. For the past several months, researchers have said the coronavirus can survive only up to four days on non-porous surfaces. But, now a study from Australia’s national science agency shows the virus can live up to 28 days on certain surfaces and in cool, dark conditions.

We’re talking about smooth surfaces like the glass on cell phones and other touch screen devices, stainless steel, and plastic banknotes.

Scientists found temperatures had a lot to do with how long the virus survived. It lived the longest – nearly a month – at 68-degrees Fahrenheit, which of course is room temperature in many homes and offices. As scientists increased the temperature, the survival rate of the virus decreased dramatically.

So, this research provides further evidence the coronavirus survives longer in cooler weather, which of course means it may be harder to control in winter than summer.

The study will help researchers develop strategies for mitigating the spread of the virus, especially in high contact areas.

However, I want to point out there are some caveats to this study. It was done in a very controlled environment with highly infectious levels of the virus, low humidity, and no exposure to ultraviolet light, which is known to degrade the virus. So, there are still a lot of questions that have to be answered.

The bottom line is people are still much more infectious than the surfaces you touch. The primary method of spreading the coronavirus is through direct contact with an infected person, especially from the particles they emit when they cough, sneeze, talk, or sing.

However, yes, it is possible to get infected if you touch a contaminated surface and then touch your mouth, eyes, or nose. So, I can’t say it enough: Wash or sanitize your hands as often as possible. Wipe down frequently touched surfaces. And it’s important to disinfect public touchscreen devices like ATMs and self-serve checkouts.

This study reinforces that we shouldn’t let our guard down.

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