As governments, health organizations and researchers ban together to try to contain the spread of coronavirus, more is being learned about the novel disease and how it works. One thing many people want to know is how long the virus can survive outside the human body. The answer may surprise you.
Like many respiratory viruses, COVID-19 is spread through tiny droplets that are released from the nose and mouth of an infected person when they sneeze or cough. A single cough can produce as many as 3,000 infected droplets, which scatter on nearby surfaces — including clothing. The particles that don’t land on surfaces remain in the air. So, how long do those particles remain contagious? The answer depends.
Though much remains unknown about COVID-19, studies on other coronaviruses, including Mers and Sars, found that they can survive on certain surfaces, such as glass, metal and plastic, for as long as nine days. More alarmingly, some coronaviruses have been known to prevail outside the human body for up to 28 days in low temperatures.
The good news is, COVID-19 is not as resilient as some coronaviruses. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still be disinfecting our surfaces. Recent studies from the National Institute of Health indicate that droplets containing the virus can survive in the air for up to three hours after a cough. Fine droplets — which are about 30 times smaller than the width of a human hair — can survive even longer.
COVID-19 survives longer on surfaces, though. Per the findings, the virus can live for up to 24 hours on a kitchen cupboard and as many as two to three days on a stainless steel or plastic surface. The findings also suggest that the virus may last even longer on door handles, laminated countertops, plastic coated worktops and other hard surfaces. Researchers did find, however, that copper can kill the virus in as little as four hours.
There is a speedier way to kill COVID-19. Research shows that you can inactivate the virus within 60 seconds by coating surfaces with a solution that contains 62% to 71% alcohol or 0.5% hydrogen peroxide bleach, or with a homemade solution that contains 0.1% sodium hypochlorite. Other coronaviruses tended to die off in warmer temperatures and higher humidity levels. However, researchers have yet to determine if this is the case with COVID-19.