The pandemic of novel coronavirus has made necessary to focus all the efforts and resources in scientific research, to find a vaccine and a cure, but also to understand the behavior of the virus. Understanding, indeed, how it is transmitted, how long it can survive outside the body and which conditions may promote its growth or, on the contrary, inhibit it, is important because in this way we have at our disposal more weapons to try to block the spreading of the virus.
A question that has been raised is how long novel coronavirus survives on surfaces, such as door handles, packs, asphalt, money or clothes and if wearing gloves may be useful, for examples at the supermarket. Today we know a little more than a few weeks ago, when all this started, let’s try to bring more clarity always on the basis of official sources, such as WHO, virologists and scientific studies.
Coronavirus, how long does it survive on surfaces?
Today we know a little more than some days ago. A study that is ready to be published in the very prestigious New England Journal of Medicine, (van Doremalen et al, 2020), has observed that the viral load of novel coronavirus outside the body lowers significantly in a few hours. In particular, on copper coronavirus halves its viral load in two hours and completely disappears in 4 hours. On cardboard the viral load halves in 5 hours and disappears in 24 hours. On plastic and steel the virus survives a little more. In particular, on plastic it can be found until 72 hours and on steels until 48 hours.
For this reason, it is possible that the virus survives from some hours to some days to door handles, handrail, button to call the elevator, light switches, it is also possible to find it on money. As a consequence, it is important not to touch the face with dirty hands, to wash often the hands with water and soap for a minute and to use a hand sanitized with water and 60% alcohol. It is also important to disinfect the surfaces of home such as door handles or light switches with solution of water and alcohol. When you go to the supermarket or take buses or underground to go to work, it is also possible to use gloves. But, according to doctors, the gloves don’t replace the important hygiene rules that we explained just above, they are just an additional protection. In the next paragraph we’ll explain better.
Coronavirus, are the gloves helpful?
The gloves may be worn as an additional protection but you should always follow the hygiene rules. Don’t touch the face with dirty hands or with the gloves. The hands should in any case be washed often with water and soap and disinfected with a solution of water and alcohol. After their usage, for example when you did the shopping, the gloves should be thrown away. Then, very important, the gloves cannot be used again.
Coronavirus, what about asphalt?
The virus outside the body has a low viral load, according to virologists. However, it may survive for some days since the dirt, also that you find on the streets, creates a protective barrier. In this case, however, it is highly unlikely a transmission. In fact, in order for an infection to occur, we need a sequence of situations. In particular, you should step on droplets generated by a sick person that has coughed or sneezed on the street, then, you should touch with hands the droplets on the sole of the shoes and finally touch with dirty hands nose, eyes or mouth. This is an unlikely situation, but, in any case, you can avoid it by washing often the hands and by disinfecting them. And, as a general rule for everybody, you should cough or sneeze in the bent elbow or in a handkerchief that then should be thrown away.
Coronavirus, what about clothes?
In order to have a transmission of the virus a sequence of situations should occur, and this is highly improbable. In particular, some infected droplets should reach your jacket or clothes, then you should touch them and then with dirt hands you should touch the face. This can be avoided by following two simple rules, maintaining the safe distance between people of at least 1 meter and washing often the hands.