coronavirus

How Long Can the Coronavirus Live on Surfaces?

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青青青国产在观免费2018One of the most terrifying things about the new coronavirus is how rapidly, and seemingly easily, it can spread. Experts are still learning about how the virus is transmitted, but , it’s believed that it spreads primarily through respiratory droplets that are produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. However, there are also that the coronavirus can live on surfaces for days.

As of April 9, there were at least 429,264 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the U.S., though as the rate of testing still varies from state to state, experts have warned that the true number of infections is likely much larger. At this point, 95 percent of Americans have been ordered or urged to stay home except for essential activities. We’ve been told to stay at least six feet away from people outside our households, wash our hands constantly, clean high-touch surfaces, and avoid touching our faces. Last week, the CDC that people wear cloth face coverings while in public settings, including grocery stores and pharmacies.

But if the virus can live on surfaces (and research indicates it can), does that mean you also need to be disinfecting everything you buy at the grocery store? Is it safe to order packages online? Here’s what we know so far.

How long can the coronavirus live on plastic, cardboard, and other surfaces?

It depends on the surface. A published in March in The New England Journal of Medicine found that the virus could survive for the longest — up to three days — on nonporous surfaces like plastic and steel. However, researchers also found that the virus’s ability to infect dropped sharply in this time.

The study found that the virus couldn’t survive as long on cardboard, a more porous surface, where it disintegrated over the course of a day.

But there’s still a lot that researchers don’t know. Another released last month by the CDC found that the coronavirus survived for up to 17 days on some surfaces aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship, which experienced a COVID-19 outbreak earlier this year. However, it’s not clear whether the virus detected was still viable. The CDC said that researchers couldn’t “determine whether transmission occurred from contaminated surfaces,” and that further research was needed.

How likely are you to get infected from touching a contaminated surface?

Right now, experts say that the risk of getting infected from touching a contaminated surface is low. For a surface that you touch — like a can of food at the grocery store, or a package from Amazon — to be contaminated with the virus, it would have to have been recently handled by someone who is sick.

And so far, there’s not much evidence that people have become infected from touching a contaminated surface. , experts believe that the main way the coronavirus spreads is person-to-person, through respiratory droplets. The CDC writes: “It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.”

Similarly, “Everything at the grocery store and restaurant containers and bags could in theory have infectious virus on them,” Dr. Linsey Marr, an expert in the transmission of viruses by aerosol at Virginia Tech, told the . “We could go crazy discussing these ‘what-ifs’ because everyone is a potential source, so we have to focus on the biggest risks.”

If you’re concerned that you may have touched a contaminated surface, Marr recommends cleaning the item with disinfecting wipes and washing your hands.

Is the virus airborne?

There’s been some debate among experts about whether the coronavirus is airborne. The World Health Organization had initially said that the virus could not travel through the air, but indicates that it can stay suspended in the air for about 30 minutes (before settling on surfaces).

青青青国产在观免费2018Researchers believe that the virus disperses quickly in the air, meaning that it doesn’t linger at high enough levels to pose a risk to most people who are not physically close to an infected person. However, these findings have implications for people who are in close contact with someone who is sick, including health-care workers and family members, and experts say that more research is needed.

The CDC recently that people wear cloth masks when in public settings where it may be difficult to stay six feet away from other people, such as grocery stores and pharmacies. According to the CDC, the new guidance is intended to help prevent those who are infected but asymptomatic (or people who don’t realize they’re sick) from spreading the virus. Officials have emphasized that civilians should not wear surgical masks or N95 respirators, which should be reserved for health-care workers.

Is it safe to order packages online?

Researchers have found that the coronavirus disintegrates on cardboard within 24 hours, and the CDC has said that the risk of the virus being transmitted via packages is low. The Times in March that the surgeon general has “indicated that there is currently no evidence that COVID-19 is being spread through the mail.” However, it’s still a good idea to dispose of any packaging, and then wash your hands.

What about grocery shopping or getting food delivered?

, there’s currently no evidence that COVID-19 transmission is associated with food. In general, cooking kills the virus, but it’s recommended that you wash any raw fruits and vegetables thoroughly before eating. Experts are also advising that people limit their trips to the store, buying enough food to last a week, if possible.

青青青国产在观免费2018If you’re worried about coming in contact with potentially infected surfaces, it’s always a good idea to wash your hands — especially before eating, preparing food, or touching your face. And right now, there’s no harm in being extra cautious, especially if you live in an area experiencing an outbreak.

This post has been updated.

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How Long Can the Coronavirus Live on Surfaces?