BOCHUM, Germany — As the number of patients infected with the novel coronavirus continue to rise out of Wuhan, China, as well as in the United States, the world is watching with bated breath as scientists from all over the globe work tirelessly to develop a vaccine. In the meantime, researchers are learning more about the deadly virus, and now they warn it may remain on surfaces for a significantly long period of time.
Novel coronavirus (2019-CoV) has quickly become a top story across media outlets all over the world, and unfortunately fear-mongering and unverified information has run rampant. Understandably, most people are primarily concerned with avoiding infection themselves, but just like everything else with this situation, verified reports of how exactly the virus is spread have been hard to come by.
A team of German researchers is offering up some important answers. Though their findings are not 100% verified, they are at the very least backed by legitimate scientific analysis performed by professionals. Paramount among their conclusions is that the virus can remain active and infectious on surfaces for up to nine days at room temperature.
While this new strain of coronavirus is obviously new, it is actually quite similar to the Sars coronavirus and Mers coronavirus. So, researchers from Ruhr-Universität Bochum and the Greifswald University Hospital analyzed 20 previous studies performed on those two coronaviruses. Thanks to this comprehensive investigation, the research team are offering up some advice on 2019-CoV.
“Under the circumstances, the best approach was to publish these verified scientific facts in advance, in order to make all information available at a glance,” comments Eike Steinmann, head of the Department for Molecular and Medical Virology at Ruhr-Universität Bochum, in a release.
First of all, just like any other droplet infection, this new coronavirus can be spread via hand-to-hand contact or by touching an infected surface area.
“In hospitals, these can be door handles, for example, but also call buttons, bedside tables, bed frames and other objects in the direct vicinity of patients, which are often made of metal or plastic,” explains Professor Günter Kampf.
While researchers believe the new coronavirus can remain active on surfaces for a maximum of nine days, its average survival duration is likely closer to four or five days.
“Low temperature and high air humidity further increase their lifespan,” Kampf notes.
Another piece of important information was that, as far as researchers can tell, various disinfection solutions should be able to neutralize the coronavirus. Examples include solutions based on ethanol, odium hypochlorite, and hydrogen peroxide. When applied in “appropriate concentrations,” these substances have been shown to reduce the number of other infectious coronaviruses by four “log-steps” per minute. In a nutshell, that means a reduction of one million pathogens to one hundred.
At the very least, the study’s authors say these disinfectants should be more than capable of taking out the virus when it is in a weakened state.
“As a rule, this is sufficient to significantly reduce the risk of infection,” Kampf says.
Again, these findings are based on studies conducted on the Sars and Mers coronaviruses, but the research team are confident that their results are applicable to 2019-CoV.
“Different coronaviruses were analyzed, and the results were all similar,” Steinmann concludes.
The study is published in the Journal of Hospital Infection.