New Delhi: Coronavirus, an infectious respiratory illness that typically spreads via airborne droplets that comes out while coughing or sneezing. The novel virus that was first reported from China’s Wuhan has been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as worldwide it has infected more than five lakh people, of which, 24,000 have been reported dead. In India, as of March 27 (10 am), according to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, the virus has affected 724 people and killed 17.
Amid the spread of the novel coronavirus, every passing day, the fear of contracting the virus is increasing and so are the doubts related to it like how can one get COVID-19, how long the virus stays on different surfaces and so on.
A recently published study in the New England Journal of Medicine analysed the aerosol and surface stability of SARS-CoV-2 and compared it with SARS-CoV-1, the most closely related human coronavirus and answers such queries related to the novel virus. Here are some of the takeaways from the study published and experts view on it:
1. Coronavirus Lives For Few Hours In The Air:
When an infected person sneezes or coughs, the virus gets suspended in the form of droplets smaller than 5 micrometers – which is known as aerosols. As per the World Health Organisation, an average cough can produce as many as 3,000 droplets and a single sneeze can make up to 40,000. Going by this fact, the researchers of the study says that the suspended droplets or aerosols might remain in the air for about half-hour, before drifting down and settling on different surfaces. The experts of the study explain and add,
These droplets are very small particles, so they might not be pulled by gravity and as a result remain suspended in the air for a long time.
However, according to Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove (Technical Lead for Covid-19) from WHO, “The virus is not airborne.” She explains,
The virus can be transmitted through fomites, which means that the virus can remain on surfaces, but that doesn’t mean that you can get the disease simply by touching an infected surface. The chances of people getting infected via surface transmission are very bleak. Following some of the precautionary measures like washing hands with soap and water or using hand sanitiser and other basic hygiene protocols will surely help in reducing your chances of getting infected.
2. Coronavirus Survives Longest On Steel And Plastic:
The researchers who conducted the study have said that the virus survived up to 3 days on plastic and steel. The researchers of the study attempted to mimic the virus being deposited from an infected person onto everyday surfaces in a household or hospital setting and found that the virus tends to stay for longer duration and reacts differently on different surfaces.
World Health Organisation, Indian Council Of Medical Research and health experts say that coronavirus is a very new disease which the world is fighting, there are studies and research happening from different part of the world based on the countries experiences but as of now nobody knows how many cases are being caused directly by contaminated surfaces.
Speaking to NDTV, Dr Rajesh Parikh, Director of Medical Research, Neuropsychiatrist and author of the book (The Coronavirus: What you Need to Know about the Global Pandemic) adds,
Any object that transmits a virus is a called a fomite. It is important to emphasise that we are still in the early stages of understanding this new virus. The studies being done are new, these might change with time. Besides all viruses are capable of mutations so that their survival time on fomites can itself change with time. The best precaution at this crucial stage is frequent hand washing with soap or sanitiser for at least 30 seconds.
3. Coronavirus Survives Up To 24-Hours On Cardboard And 4 Hours On Copper:
The study done on coronavirus and its action time on different surfaces say that the virus can last on cardboard for up to 24 hours and on copper the least – for about 4 hours, out of all the other surfaces. So, with this new study in place, should we all be worried about online deliveries as most of us are using online delivery services during the coronavirus outbreak instead of going to stores in person. Are food products packed in cardboard could also be at risk?
Explaining these frequently asked questions, Dr Rajni Kant, Director, Regional Medical Research Centre & Head, Research Management, Policy, Planning and Coordination, ICMR, added,
There is no evidence for these studies, the virus is a very new concept for each one of us. At this point, just think of your hands as the enemy. Wash them regularly and thoroughly with soap and water or use a hand sanitiser. Try not to rub your eyes, pick your nose, or touch your lips and mouth. Take these precautions and we all be able to fight the pandemic.