Can You Get Coronavirus From Surfaces?

New research may clarify the answer

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It is clear that the main way coronavirus is transmitted from person to person is through droplets, meaning that someone coughs or sneezes, and the infected droplets enter into the lungs, eyes, and nose. There is a question of whether you can also get the virus by touching surfaces. New research published on March 17 may help clarify the answer.

Researchers tested the viability of SARS CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) on various surfaces and compared it to the virus that caused SARS. Here is what they found:

  1. The virus remained viable in aerosols for at least three hours.
  2. The virus was much more stable on plastic and stainless steel than copper and cardboard.
  3. Viable virus was detected up to 72 hours on plastic and 48 hours on stainless steel.
  4. No viable virus was detected on copper after 4 hours, and no viable virus was detected on cardboard after 24 hours.
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So what does all this mean?

First, there is viable virus that can live on surfaces for days. Now, as time goes on, the numbers of virus decrease. Still, there is virus on those surfaces. And it seems to last the longest on plastic.

So, armed with this knowledge, it is essential that we clean — and clean often — surfaces with which we have had frequent contact. And this knowledge further strengthens the recommendation that we wash our hands — a lot — in case we pick up virus on something we touch, AND try as hard as we can not to touch our eyes, face, or nose. It’s hard, I know, and we need to try just as hard.

Furthermore — and this is really important — physicians, nurses, and other clinicians need to start getting in the habit of wiping down their stethoscopes between patients. Now, if we are seeing a patient with Coronavirus, we will likely be using a disposable stethoscope. Still, it is a good thing to do in general with all our patients — coronavirus or not — to stop the spread of disease.

I have been doing so since medical school. More people should do the same.

NY Times featured Pulmonary and Critical Care Specialist | Physician Leader | Author and Blogger | His latest book is “Code Blue,” a medical thriller.

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