A new study reveals that the highly contagious novel coronavirus that has rapidly ignited a global pandemic can remain infectious in droplets in the air for hours and on surfaces for days.
According to Reuters, this information comes from a new study that is meant to offer guidance to help people avoid contracting the respiratory illness known as COVID-19.
Scientists and officials from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) attempted to mimic the spread of the virus, as it is deposited from an infected person onto everyday surfaces in a household or hospital setting through activities like coughing or touching objects.
The scientists used a device to dispense an aerosol that duplicated the microscopic droplets created in a cough or a sneeze. Then they investigated how long the virus remained infectious on the surfaces.
The study appeared online in the New England Journal of Medicine on Tuesday. It showed that when the virus is carried by the droplets released when someone coughs or sneezes, it remains viable, or able to still infect people, in aerosols for at least three hours. The virus remained viable on plastic and stainless steel and was even detected after three days. On cardboard, the virus was not viable after 24 hours, and on copper, the virus became inactivated after 4 hours.
In terms of half-life, the research team found that if the virus particles are in an aerosol droplet, it takes about 66 minutes for half the virus particles to lose function. This means that after another hour and six minutes, three-quarters of the virus particles will be essentially inactivated, but 25% will still be viable, which can still spread.