The SARS-CoV-2 virus is stable for several hours to days in aerosols and on surfaces, according to a new study from National Institutes of Health (NIH), CDC, UCLA and Princeton University scientists in The New England Journal of Medicine.
The virus was detectable in aerosols for up to three hours, up to four hours on copper, up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to two to three days on plastic and stainless steel.
The results suggest that people may acquire the virus through the air and after touching contaminated objects.
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 the 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.
Emerging evidence suggests that people infected with SARS-CoV-2 might be spreading virus without recognizing, or prior to recognizing, symptoms. This would make disease control measures that were effective against SARS-CoV-1 less effective against its successor.
In contrast to SARS-CoV-1, most secondary cases of the virus transmission of SARS-CoV-2 appear to be occurring in community settings rather than in healthcare settings. However, healthcare settings are also vulnerable to the introduction and spread of SARS-CoV-2, and the stability of SARS-CoV-2 in aerosols and on surfaces likely contributes to transmission of the virus in healthcare settings.