THE coronavirus can live in the air for hours and survive on certain surfaces for days, according to new test results from the government and scientists.
The virus — which has been declared a global pandemic — has infected nearly 130,000 people worldwide, and over 1,300 in the U.S. alone.
Researchers used a nebulizer device to put samples of the virus into the air, the same way it would end up there if someone were to cough.
They found the virus, still viable, could be detected in the air up to three hours later.
Scientists said it could also be detected up to four hours on copper, up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to two or three days on plastic and stainless steel.
But researchers stress that it doesn’t prove anyone has been infected by breathing the coronavirus through the air or by touching contaminated surfaces.
“We’re not by any way saying there is aerosolized transmission of the virus,” study leader Neeltje van Doremalen, of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said.
Van Doremalen told The Associated Press this work shows that the virus stays viable for long periods in those conditions, so it’s theoretically possible.
The tests were done at the National Institutes of Health’s Rocky Mountain Lab in Hamilton, Montana, by scientists from the NIH, Princeton University and the University of California, Los Angeles, with funding from the U.S. government and the National Science Foundation.
The findings were published online Wednesday and have not been reviewed by other scientists.
But Julie Fischer, a microbiology professor at Georgetown University, said: “It’s a solid piece of work that answers questions people have been asking.”
“What we need to be doing is washing our hands, being aware that people who are infected may be contaminating surfaces,” she added.
Van Doremalen said the best way to likely kill the virus is by using solutions with diluted bleach in it — but said “it’s something we’re researching right now.”
What scientists have confirmed is that the coronavirus is spread between people who are close contact with one another, within about six feet.
People contract it through “respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.”
As explained by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, those droplets “can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.”
Health officials warn to wash hands often for at least 20 seconds with soap and water, especially after being in public.
If someone is not near soap and water, hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol will work.
It’s also recommended people avoid close contact with others and avoid touching their eyes, nose and mouth with dirty hands.
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