Subway workers clean and disinfect glass door panels on a platform at a subway station in Shanghai, … [+]
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A new analysis looking at data from different types of coronavirus has shown that many strains can live on surfaces such as glass, plastic or metal, for up to nine days.
The work published in The Journal of Hospital Infection looked at 22 historical studies on different types of coronavirus, such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) coronaviruses. The authors were originally intending to publish the work in an upcoming textbook, but in light of the recent outbreak, the they decided to release the work early.
“Under the circumstances, the best approach was to publish these verified scientific facts in advance, in order to make all information available at a glance,” says Eike Steinmann, Professor in the Department for Molecular and Medical Virology at the Faculty of Medicine at Ruhr-Universität Bochum in Germany and lead author of the paper.
nCoV2019, the coronavirus strain involved in the current outbreak, is a droplet infection and can be spread directly between people or by touching contaminated surfaces.
“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,” said Professor Günter Kampf from the Institute of Hygiene and Environmental Medicine at the Greifswald University Hospital in Germany and co-author of the paper.
The review found that on average, coronaviruses can live on surfaces for between four and five days, but some could survive for up to nine days outside of the body at room temperature.
“Low temperature and high air humidity further increase their lifespan,” said Kampf.
It is important to note that the review article only took into account data from other types of coronaviruses like SARS and MERS to make their conclusions as no data of this type currently exists on nCoV2019, the strain in the current outbreak. Despite this, the authors predict that nCoV2019 is likely to be similar to previous coronaviruses in terms of its ability to live outside of the body and sensitivity to disinfectants.
“Different coronaviruses were analysed, and the results were all similar,” said Steinmann.
However, the good news from the study is that if nCoV2019 is similar to SARS and MERS, it is likely to be sensitive to regular disinfectants such as those containing alcohol or bleach, which have been shown to be effective against coronaviruses previously.
There have been several videos showing Chinese authorities reportedly spraying the streets of the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, Wuhan with disinfectant. Neighboring city Huangshi is also reported to have had a wide-scale disinfection operation overnight to attempt to contain the spread of the virus, although it is not currently known how effective this is likely to be.