The fomite issue: we now have a better idea how long the novel coronavirus lives outside the human body
by Tommy Underhill
March 18, 2020
Yesterday, March 17, 2020, the New England Journal of Medicine published a letter from a research team on Aerosol and Surface Stability of SARS-CoV-2 as Compared with SARS-CoV-1.
The team consisted of researchers from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases; Princeton University; University of California, Los Angeles; and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention determined
- SARS-CoV-2 is more stable on plastic and stainless steel than on copper and cardboard.
- Viable virus was detected up to 72 hours after application to plastic and stainless steel.
- On copper, no viable SARS-CoV-2 was measured after 4 hours.
- On cardboard, no viable SARS-CoV-2 was measured after 24 hours and no viable SARS-CoV-1 was measured after 8 hours.
- On cardboard, the half-life of SARS-CoV-2 was longer than that of SARS-CoV-1.
- The longest viability of both viruses was on stainless steel and plastic; the estimated median half-life of SARS-CoV-2 was approximately 5.6 hours on stainless steel and 6.8 hours on plastic.
The median half-life of a virus is a measurement of the length of time required for half of the total sample to no longer be viable. For example, a median half-life of 6.8 hours means that in 6.8 hours, there will be 50% of the virus viable. After another 6.8 hours there will be 25% of the original sample still viable. In another 6.8 hours there will be 12.5% left... and so on until there is no viable virus remaining.
The research team determined their results indicate that aerosol and fomite transmission of SARS-CoV-2 is plausible, since the virus can remain viable and infectious in aerosols for hours and on surfaces up to days (depending on the inoculum shed).
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