United States-based study supports Hamilton public health officials advice to establish coronavirus social distance areas


Public health officials’ advice to wipe all surfaces no matter what they are and to establish a social distance perimeter of up to two metres sounds prescient in the wake of a recent study on how long the novel coronavirus can survive outside a host body.

The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine on March 17, found that the coronavirus COVID-19 can remain infectious in droplets in the air for up to three hours and on some surfaces for up to three days.

“The virus spreads between people who are in close contact with one another through respiratory droplets much like the common cold or flu,” stated the study, overseen by leader Neeltje van Duremalen at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

But the study found that the virus could be detected for up to four hours on copper, up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to three days on plastic and stainless steel surfaces.

The United States-based study, which was a collaboration by scientists from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Princeton University, the University of California at Los Angeles, and the National Centre for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, used an aerosol device to spray the virus that mimicked the microscopic droplets created when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The study used a variety of surfaces including plastic, stainless steel, cardboard and copper to represent various household and hospital environments.

The virus, stated the study, “showed relatively long viability on stainless steel and polypropylene compared to copper or cardboard.”

The study found that the virus remained stable in the air and on surfaces which “may affect” virus transmission as “virus particles need to remain viable long enough after being expelled from the host to be taken up by a novel host.”

Hamilton’s associate medical officer of health, Dr. Bart Harvey, has echoed what other health officials have repeatedly stated to wipe down surfaces and maintain social distancing — about two metres — in order to prevent the transmission of the virus.

Even if individuals are using playing cards or working on a puzzle, Harvey suggested to clean the surfaces on a regular basis.

“Giving (the surface) a wipe down with diluted bleach or an alcohol wipe, Clorox wipe, is a great thing to do,” he said.

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