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Lifespan of coronavirus on different surfaces

Lifespan of coronavirus on different surfaces

  • July 21, 2020

By now, you’ve probably heard that the most common way for coronavirus (COVID-19) to spread is person-to-person through respiratory droplets released when an infected person coughs or sneezes. If a healthy person inhales these droplets, he or she could get sick. It’s why we’re all practicing social distancing — trying to keep six feet of space between us and the person next to us. But, these infectious respiratory droplets can also land on things. So whenever you touch door handle or pick up your phone, it is natural to wonder what all surfaces are infected and till how long does it remains infected.

There is still much to learn about this new novel coronavirus and about how easily the virus can spread via contaminated surfaces. Depending on the surface, the virus can live on surfaces for a few hours or up to several days. The new coronavirus seems to be able to survive the longest on plastic and stainless steel — potentially as long as three days on these surfaces. It can also live on cardboard for up to 24 hours.

Since coronaviruses can live on surfaces, it’s important to know what you can do to prevent surface-to-person spread. This starts with understanding how the virus winds up on surfaces, as well as how the virus actually infects a person.

An infected person’s cough can send infectious respiratory droplets flying as far as six feet. While these droplets may seem tiny, they’re heavy enough to be affected by gravity. The droplets eventually fall to the ground, contaminating any surfaces they may land on. If you touch a contaminated surface, the virus can be transmitted to your hand, where the virus can likely survive for a few hours.

This means that the main ways to prevent infection with coronavirus via contaminated surfaces are to 

Know the common surfaces where germs usually hide

Frequently clean and disinfect commonly touched surfaces

Avoid directly touching surfaces commonly touched by many different people

Wash your hands properly and regularly

Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth as much as possible

When it comes to properly cleaning and disinfecting commonly touched surfaces, frequently wiping these surfaces down with a common EPA-registered household disinfectant, a diluted bleach solution or an alcohol-based solution that’s at least 70% alcohol is recommended. And, if you’re sick, it’s also important to cover your cough the right way so you can be sure you’re not contaminating nearby surfaces or infecting people around you.

When in doubt, do some laundry: While the chances of getting COVID-19 via contaminated clothing are likely pretty low, you may still ascribe to the “better safe than sorry” mantra.If you’re worried that your clothes may have been contaminated while at the store or another public space where social distancing is challenging, toss them into the washing machine when you get home. Standard laundry detergents should be sufficient to wash and sanitize your clothes.If you’re taking care of someone who has COVID-19, there are extra precautions recommended when it comes to handling and washing clothing, including wear gloves while handling a sick person’s laundry, and then washing your hands after removing the gloves, avoid shaking dirty laundry as far as possible use the warmest water setting.

Make sure you’re preparing food safely:

Wash your hands. Since coronavirus can live on surfaces, it’s important to practice proper hand washing before, during and after food preparation, as well as before you eat.

Wash your raw food. There are many unknowns when it comes to how long coronavirus can live on food. Regardless, you should always thoroughly wash your produce with water before cooking it or eating it raw.

Clean the surfaces in your kitchen. Regularly disinfect commonly touched surfaces in your kitchen, including counter tops and cabinet knobs, using an EPA-registered household disinfectant, a diluted bleach solution or an alcohol-based solution that’s at least 70% alcohol.

Make sure your food is fully cooked. Most viruses are sensitive to the high temperatures used while cooking. Make sure you’re following the minimum cooking temperatures for meat, poultry and other cooked foods.

Don’t prepare food if you’re sick. If you’re sick, and especially if you’re showing symptoms, it’s best to avoid preparing food for other people.

Tips for handling packages and deliveries: Online shopping and contactless delivery is the new normal these days. While surface-to-person transmission of COVID-19 via packages is technically feasible, it’s unlikely — especially if you’re following guidelines for protecting yourself from the virus.

Avoid close contact with the delivery person. Ask for contact-free delivery, recommending that the package be left in a safe space outside your home. At the very least, be sure to maintain six feet of distance between yourself and the delivery person.

Wash your hands after handling a package. After discarding the packaging, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly with either soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

Disinfect surfaces. For instance, if you set the package down on your kitchen counter while opening it, disinfect the counter using either household cleaner or a diluted bleach solution you can make at home.

Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. The good news is that the virus can’t infect you through your skin. But, you can get sick if it’s on your hands and you touch your eyes, nose or mouth. This means you should avoid touching your face as much as possible. If you’re still really nervous about your packages, you can leave them untouched in an isolated space for several hours — possibly a whole day — or disinfect the package before opening it.

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