The virus
that causes coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is stable for several hours to
days in aerosols and on surfaces, scientists from the National Institutes of
Health, CDC, UCLA and Princeton University, reported in The New England Journal
of Medicine published yesterday.

The
scientists found that severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2
(SARS-CoV-2) was detectable in aerosols for up to three hours, up to four hours
on copper, up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to two to three days on plastic
and stainless steel. The results provide key information about the stability of
SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19 disease, and suggests that people may acquire
the virus through the air and after touching contaminated objects.

The study
information was widely shared during the past two weeks after the researchers
placed the contents on a preprint server to quickly share their data with
colleagues.

The NIH
scientists, from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases’
Montana facility at Rocky Mountain Laboratories, compared how the environment
affects SARS-CoV-2 and SARS-CoV-1, which causes SARS. SARS-CoV-1, like its
successor now circulating across the globe, emerged from China and infected
more than 8,000 people in 2002 and 2003. SARS-CoV-1 was eradicated by intensive
contact tracing and case isolation measures and no cases have been detected
since 2004. SARS-CoV-1 is the human coronavirus most closely related to
SARS-CoV-2. In the stability study the two viruses behaved similarly, which
unfortunately fails to explain why COVID-19 has become a much larger outbreak.

The NIH
study attempted to mimic virus being deposited from an infected person onto
everyday surfaces in a household or hospital setting, such as through coughing
or touching objects. The scientists then investigated how long the virus
remained infectious on these surfaces.

The
scientists highlighted additional observations from their study:

If the
viability of the two coronaviruses is similar, why is SARS-CoV-2 resulting in
more cases? Emerging evidence suggests that people infected with SARS-CoV-2
might be spreading virus without recognizing, or prior to recognizing,
symptoms. This would make disease control measures that were effective against
SARS-CoV-1 less effective against its successor.

In
contrast to SARS-CoV-1, most secondary cases of virus transmission of
SARS-CoV-2 appear to be occurring in community settings rather than healthcare
settings. However, healthcare settings are also vulnerable to the introduction
and spread of SARS-CoV-2, and the stability of SARS-CoV-2 in aerosols and on
surfaces likely contributes to transmission of the virus in healthcare
settings.

SOURCE: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/03/200317150116.htm

REFERENCE:  Van Doremalen et al: Aerosol and Surface
Stability of SARS-CoV-2 as Compared with SARS-CoV-1. New England Journal
of Medicine, 2020; 
https://www.nejm.org/doi/10.1056/NEJMc2004973