Coronavirus can remain viable and infectious in droplets in the air for hours and on some surfaces up to three days, a new study says.
A study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that viable virus could be detected up to three hours later in the air, up to four hours on copper, up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to two to three days on plastic and stainless steel.
A report of the virus surviving 17 days on surfaces was incorrect. The Centers for Disease Control found novel coronavirus RNA, or genetic material – not the coronavirus itself – on surfaces in Diamond Princess cruise ship cabins up to 17 days after they’d been vacated. The RNA is not infectious.
The main mode of transmission is from person to person – particularly those who are not exhibiting symptoms – not through contact with potentially infected surfaces, said Joseph Vinetz, an infectious disease researcher at Yale University not connected with the study.
The virus spreads between people who are in close contact with one another through respiratory droplets, much like the common cold or flu, the CDC says.
For the study, scientists from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institutes of Health, Princeton and UCLA used a device to dispense an aerosol that mimicked the microscopic droplets created when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
The virus was deposited onto surfaces including plastic, stainless steel, cardboard and copper to represent a variety of household and hospital settings. Over time the amount of viable virus on these surfaces decreased sharply.
Experts say this doesn’t necessarily mean you need to be worried about coronavirus lingering on boxes delivered by Amazon or on your takeout food bag. The CDC has said there is likely very low risk of transmission of COVID-19 from products or packaging that are shipped over a period of days or weeks “because of poor survivability of these coronaviruses on surfaces.”