Coronavirus could survive on surfaces for nine days, researchers find

Treating surfaces including metal, glass and plastic with either an alcohol-based disinfectant or bleach will kill the virus within a minute, they added.

A confirmed coronavirus patient is wheeled to a hospital at Chuncheon, South Korea, February 22, 2020. (photo credit: YONHAP VIA REUTERS)
A confirmed coronavirus patient is wheeled to a hospital at Chuncheon, South Korea, February 22, 2020.
(photo credit: YONHAP VIA REUTERS)
Coronavirus may be able to survive on inanimate surfaces for as long as nine days, potentially increasing the risk of spread if not treated with disinfectant agents, a team of researchers has found.
Such is the concern that China has begun disinfecting and destroying cash in a bid to control the novel coronavirus, known to scientists as SARS-CoV-2. The measure was undertaken because cash changes hands so regularly.
Chinese banks have been ordered by the government to disinfect their cash with ultraviolet light and high temperatures before storing it for seven to 14 days. Only then can it be re-released to customers, CNN reported earlier this week.
Little is known about SARS-CoV-2, but researchers hope to gain an insight into its likely behavior from studying similar coronaviruses.
In a paper published earlier this month in The Journal of Hospital Infection, a group of researchers looked at 22 studies detailing how long coronaviruses which effect humans and animals can survive on inanimate surfaces.
They found that human coronaviruses such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) coronavirus, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) coronavirus or endemic human coronaviruses (HCoV) can survive for up to nine days on surfaces including metal, glass or plastic, but that treating those surfaces with a disinfectant will kill the virus within a minute.
"As no specific therapies are available for SARS-CoV-2, early containment and prevention of further spread will be crucial to stop the ongoing outbreak and to control this novel infectious thread," they noted in their summary.
The virus is known to spread person-to-person through respiratory droplets, most often through a cough or a sneeze, but the research suggested that the virus may also be spread through a person touching an infected surface and then touching the mouth or nose, or possibly even the eyes.
"Based on the current available data, I would primarily rely on the data from SARS coronavirus, which is the closest relative to the novel coronavirus - with 80% sequence similarity - among the coronaviruses tested. For SARS coronavirus, the range of persistence on surfaces was less than five minutes to nine days," said Dr. Charles Chiu, an infectious disease professor at the University of California, San Francisco, who was not on the team of researchers behind the report, CNN has reported.
"However, it is very difficult to extrapolate these findings to the novel coronavirus due to the different strains, viral titers and environmental conditions that were tested in the various studies and the lack of data on the novel coronavirus itself," he said. "More research using cultures of the novel coronavirus are needed to establish the duration that it can survive on surfaces."
The findings suggest that quarantine measures combined with rigorous cleanliness measures may aid in preventing spread of the virus. America's Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has stated on its website that the virus "seems to be spreading easily and sustainably in Hubei province and other parts of China," but adds: "In the United States, spread from person-to-person has occurred only among a few close contacts and has not spread any further to date."
The team of researchers found that treating surfaces with either an alcohol based disinfectant or bleach would likely remove the risk from inanimate surfaces within one minute.
Meanwhile, "Remain informed, but do not panic," Chiu said, according to CNN. "My recommendations would be frequent hand-washing, avoiding contact with people who are sick, follow home quarantine recommendations according to the latest public health agency guidelines if you have recently traveled from China or were in contact with a known or suspected infected patient."
However, he added: "It is still far more likely that you contract influenza rather than this novel coronavirus, meaning that you should get vaccinated for influenza as well."