The new coronavirus (COVID-19) can survive in the air for several hours and on some surfaces for up to three days, according to testing conducted by the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), UCLA and Princeton University.
The results suggest it is “plausible” that the virus can be transmitted through the air or by touching a contaminated surface, according to a preliminary study published Wednesday. The study, however, has not been peer reviewed, which means it should not be relied on to guide clinical practice or health-related behavior.
"We found that viable virus could be detected in aerosols up to 3 hours post aerosolization, up to 4 hours on copper, up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to 2-3 days on plastic and stainless steel,” the researchers said.
In ongoing experiments, the researchers said they are “studying virus viability in different matrices, such as nasal secretion, sputum and fecal matter, and while varying environmental conditions, such as temperature and relative humidity."
The CDC has said that it may be possible for someone to contract COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching his or her mouth, nose or eyes. But researchers note that the coronavirus is thought to spread mainly by person-to-person contact, when someone standing within about six feet of an infected person is exposed to “respiratory droplets” through a cough or sneeze.
The CDC continues to recommend that people protect themselves by washing their hands often; avoiding touching their eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands; avoiding close contact with people who are sick; and cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces, such as tables, doorknobs, countertops, phones, toilets, faucets and keyboards.