This is how long coronavirus lives in the air and on surfaces

Before the coronavirus became an issue in the United States, I wrote a post that addressed a common concern at the time… could you get the coronavirus from packages shipped from China?

The answer was no. The coronavirus didn’t survive on surfaces long enough to make the trip overseas. But now that the coronavirus is all around us, you may have different questions on your mind related to the coronavirus’ survivability, like…

How long, exactly, can the virus survive on packages, public surfaces and other objects? And (since there’s some evidence that the coronavirus could be airborne) how long does it last in the air?

The answers to these questions are key pieces to the puzzle when it comes to protecting yourself from the virus and doing your part to prevent its spread. Luckily, a new study provides these important answers…

Coronavirus lingers anywhere from a few hours to a few days

A team of government and university researchers from the U.S. recently set out to answer some pressing questions about how long the coronavirus lingers in our environment.

They used a nebulizer device to emit the virus into the environment, similar to what would happen if someone infected with the virus coughed. Then they tested the air and different types of materials to see how long the virus lasted. Here’s what they found…

  • The virus lasted in the air for up to three hours.
  • It lasted on copper for up to four hours.
  • It lasted on cardboard for up to 24 hours.
  • And it lasted on plastic and stainless steel for up to two to three days.

I know the idea of the coronavirus lasting that long on surfaces or in the air is scary. But before you get too concerned, I want to mention something. Researchers say that they don’t know for sure if people can catch the coronavirus through the air. It’s possible but not certain.

Also, even though the virus is likely to end up on many public surfaces, there are common-sense measures you can take to reduce the risk of it entering your body…

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Practical ways to protect yourself

If you touch coronavirus on a public surface, you won’t necessarily get the virus… unless you also touch your eyes, nose or mouth. Viruses enter the body through the mucous membranes in those body parts. So, we all need to get out of the habit of touching our faces (the average person touches their face 23 times an hour!) It’s not easy, but it’s one of the best preventative measures we can take.

Washing your hands frequently — particularly when you’re out in public — is incredibly important too. You need to lather your hands with soap for at least 20 seconds, then rinse them thoroughly with water. Turn off the sink with something other than your hand (like your elbow) and dry your hands with a clean towel or let them air dry. Don’t touch the door handle on the way out, otherwise, you’ll have to start all over again.

In your home, you can reduce the risk of the virus lingering from family members or visitors by cleaning surfaces twice per day with a disinfectant. The bathroom is important territory to clean too. There’s some evidence that the virus is transmitted through stool.

Related: 5 ways to prepare your home and family for coronavirus

These are strange times we’re living in, but my motto right now is, “Be proactive, not panicked.” Panic won’t prevent you from getting the virus, simple actions like the ones mentioned above might.


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Sources:

  1. Aerosol and surface stability of HCoV-19 (SARS-CoV-2) compared to SARS-CoV-1 — Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
  2. Coronavirus lingers in rooms and toilets but disinfectants kill it — MedicalXpress
  3. Tests show new coronavirus lives on some surfaces for up to three days — MedicalXpress
  4. A daily dose of spice to beat Alzheimer’s? — Easy Health Options
  5. Hand Washing — Cleveland Clinic

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Jenny Smiechowski

By Jenny Smiechowski

Jenny Smiechowski is a Chicago-based freelance writer who specializes in health, nutrition and the environment. Her work has appeared in online and print publications like Chicagoland Gardening magazine, Organic Lifestyle Magazine, BetterLife Magazine, TheFix.com, Hybridcars.com and Seedstock.com.