How Long Does Coronavirus Last?

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Millions of positive cases and countless thousands of dollars poured into scientific research, thus far, the world has just begun to slowly understand the Novel Coronavirus (Sars-CoV-2 Virus or COVID-19) virus and the diseases it causes. In fact, what started as a respiratory illness has now recently been discovered to affect not only the lungs but other vital organs such as the heart and kidney. 

Studies continue to be conducted in order to get more data for the purpose of fully understanding how COVID-19 affects the human body. One of the things that virologists and medical experts have kept a close eye on is data regarding how long the Coronavirus lasts when an individual is infected or when it touches any surface. 

In this article, we will cover the following:

How Long Does Coronavirus Last On Surfaces?

According to the Center for Disease Control or CDC, there is a possibility that you can catch the virus by touching the surfaces of materials that have the virus on them; especially if afterwards, you inadvertently transfer these to your eyes, nose, or mouth. 

The Coronavirus droplets that land on surfaces such as tabletops and doorknobs can stay viable for hours or days depending on the material the surface is made of, as well as other environmental factors.

Below are the different kind of surfaces and how long the Coronavirus lasts and observed to remain a health risk:

Material Approximate Duration
Copper such as coins, cookware and tea kettles
4 hours
Aluminum such as tin foil for baking or wrapping and soda tin cans
2 to 8 hours
Cardboard such as boxes for shipping
24 hours
Plastics such as containers, bottles, seats in the subways and buses, and elevator buttons
2 to 3 days
Stainless steel such as some bottle containers, kitchen sinks, pans, pots, and some kitchen appliances
2 to 3 days
Wood such as decking and furniture
4 days
Metal such as silverware, jewelry, and most doorknobs
5 days
Glass such as windows, mirrors, and drinking glasses
5 days
Paper such as in mail and newspapers - the length of time varies depending on the strain of the virus.
Some strains last for only a few minutes. Other strains can live up to 5 days.
Food and water
No evidence that COVID-19 is food-borne
Fabric and clothing
There is little research on Coronavirus and studies estimate that the duration should be lower than in harder surfaces.
Soles of shoes
There is no viable evidence that Coronavirus droplets found on the soles of shoes can cause infection.
Human skin & hair
The exact time of how long the Coronavirus lasts on human skin & hair is unknown. However, there is evidence that shows the virus lasts long enough on human skin to trigger transmission.

With that data above, however, the CDC advises that COVID-19 transmission from surfaces to humans has not been fully documented. This is understandable, however. Even the regular Joe or Jane can see that it’s difficult to trace back how and which surfaces you touched if you do contract COVID-19. 

But, since there is enough evidence to show that droplets can last for certain periods of time on different kinds of surfaces, the best defense against this is to follow health protocols enacted by your state laws. These may be different for each locality, but people are generally advised to:

Aside from the above protocols, all households and business establishments also need to ensure that they are cleaning and disinfecting properly to reduce the risk of Coronavirus transmission.

Let’s look at the next section to see effective cleaning and disinfecting tips.

How To Properly Clean & Disinfect Surfaces

Numerous recent studies have shown that the Novel Coronavirus is primarily made up of oily “lipids” or fat. Similar to washing off butter from a frying pan with sudsy soap, the Coronavirus can be effectively eliminated from either human skin or any surface through “breaking it down” using the following removal methods:

Let’s take a look at the differences between cleaning and disinfecting.

Per the CDC, cleaning is simply the removal of dust, dirt, grime, and any other impurities that are found on hard surfaces. Simple cleaning methods do not necessarily kill bacteria or viruses but it does reduce them significantly.

After cleaning, you must follow through with proper disinfection. The CDC then defines disinfection as using chemicals to effectively kill germs, bacteria, and viruses. There are several chemical or alcohol-based household disinfectants that you can buy at your local store. For business establishments that may still have workers and customers coming in from time to time, they should consider using EPA-registered disinfectants.

In addition, establishments such as hospitals, schools, churches, grocery stores, shopping centers, community centers, medical facilities, and restaurants/dining establishments should also consider contracting the services of professional cleaners for deep cleaning and disinfection as an added, “protective” layer in the effort of effectively reducing the risk of being infected with COVID-19.

That said, both households and business establishments can practice these cleaning and disinfecting tips:

Learning how to properly clean, disinfect, and how long the Coronavirus lasts on surfaces is only the tip of the iceberg. In the next section, we’ll go in greater detail and learn more about how this deadly virus actually spreads.

What We Know About COVID-19 Transmission

Since it’s the official announcement as a global pandemic in the early months of 2020, studies show for certain that an individual can get infected with COVID-19 through the person-to-person spread of the Coronavirus via respiratory droplets. 

This means that if you are positive with the virus, and you sneeze or cough without properly covering your mouth and washing/disinfecting your hands afterward, anyone that is fairly close to you (within 6 feet) and comes in contact with your “droplets” can also easily catch COVID-19. In fact, studies show that one infected person has the likelihood of infecting hundreds within a span of 30 – 40 days.

Because of how fast the Coronavirus spreads from one infected person to another, the World Health Organization or WHO then advised containment measures and hygiene precautions similar to that of the SARS outbreak in Taiwan in 2004:

But, while COVID-19 has similar characteristics with that of SARS and we are all essentially following the same precautionary measures, the similarities of these deadly viruses are few and far between. Chief amongst its differences is that there seemed to be little to none asymptomatic cases reported for SARS and the Spanish Flu while large percentages of COVID-19 infected individuals from varied parts of the world reported that they had no idea they were carrying the virus until they went in for testing. The challenge here is obvious: if you don’t know that you have it, how can you possibly work hard to contain it?

To date, virologists still are not certain if the world can claim the same victory as it did during the SARS epidemic. To put simply, while both viruses seem to have the same origins, they are as different as night and day. The world is still battling to understand how we can beat COVID-19

In any case, aside from person-to-person and surface-to-person transmission, there are other ways that COVID-19 can spread. We’ll take a look at these in the next section.

Is the Coronavirus “Airborne”?

Originally, the WHO posted a scientific brief on March 27, 2020, which advised that there is no evidence to suggest that the Coronavirus is an airborne disease and can travel distances of more than 6 feet.

However, independent studies from experts in airborne respiratory illnesses and aerosols found that the tiny particles (much smaller than respiratory droplets) of exhaled air from infected patients, also called aerosols, can remain in the air of enclosed spaces for a period of time. This can accumulate over time causing COVID-19 infection in anyone who breathes the infected air. 

As the scientific community sounded out this warning, the WHO could no longer ignore it. They recently changed their stance in COVID-19’s airborne transmission, stating that: 

“Airborne transmission of SARS-CoV-2 can occur  during medical procedures that generate aerosols (“aerosol generating procedures”).(12) WHO, together with the scientific community, has been actively discussing and evaluating whether SARS-CoV-2 may also spread through aerosols in the absence of aerosol generating procedures, particularly in indoor settings with poor ventilation.”

Can the Coronavirus Spread from Animals to People?

While initial contact tracing of the first few cases of COVID-19 may have possibly linked its origins from that of a bat, there is no solid evidence to confirm this. The CDC, however, is certain that the Novel Coronavirus came from an animal – but whether it’s a bat or another species entirely, we still do not know.

There are some reported cases, however, of people spreading the virus to animals. From household pets to minks in the Netherlands, scientists have diagnosed COVID-19 in animals.

So, how likely is it that an animal can transmit COVID-19 to a human being? There is still not enough evidence to point out that “yes, definitely, we can get COVID-19 from our pets”. But, as the world continues to study and learn more about COVID-19, who knows what we’ll know a few months from now.

In any case, pet owners should always remain vigilant of the volatile and mostly unknown nature of the Novel Coronavirus. It’s only commonsensical to keep our pets socially-distanced from other people and pets, as well. And while zoos and other animal facilities remain closed to the public, if we do find ourselves within the vicinity of any kind of wildlife, it’s best to keep away from them, wear masks, and practice hand-hygiene at all times.

How Long Does Coronavirus Last In Humans?

Exposure & Incubation Period

According to the CDC, it will take 2-14 days after exposure to the virus for symptoms to appear. This is referred to as the “incubation period”. A more recent study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine by a group of US immunologists found that on average, symptoms will appear just over 5 days after the exposure. This claim was made after they analyzed more than 180 cases of COVID-19. 

In the same study, the researchers found that for those who get the virus, 97% develop symptoms within 11 days from the time they are infected. 

However, not all who get infected with Coronavirus will exhibit symptoms of the disease. According to the WHO, 80% of those who are infected will have mild or asymptomatic infections. 

Those who develop symptoms may experience:

It’s also been found that other people who get infected will experience headaches, sore throat, runny or congested nose, vomiting or nausea, and diarrhea.

Recovery Period

When an individual contracts COVID-19, recovering from the virus is dependent on the severity of the case:

It is important to remember that according to the CDC, people with compromised health such as older adults and people with underlying medical conditions may develop serious complications if infected with COVID-19 and may require longer care than others.

Post-Recovery: When Can I Visit Family & Friends?

As with other diseases, there are circumstances when the virus stays in the system longer than most cases. This is known as viral persistence. With regards to the Coronavirus, scientists are still finding out why this happens to some patients, how patients vary from one another, and exactly how long will the virus infect the human body. 

For example, researchers have documented a case in China where the woman developed a mild case of Covid-19. She exhibited symptoms which lasted only 2-3 weeks. However, she remained positive for the virus for 2 months. 

With the possibility of having an extended viral persistence, the CDC recommends that for people who are infected with COVID-19, ensure that it is at least 10 days from when the symptoms began to appear, that the symptoms are improving, with at least 3 days of having no fever before going out in public.

Healthcare professionals, however, who have direct contact with COVID-19 cases must adhere to criteria set about by the CDC before returning to work or venturing out into the public. You can find more information here.

Conclusion

There is still so much to learn about the virus that causes COVID-19. Also, scientists are still in the process of developing an effective vaccine. Given the circumstances, the best course of action is to be cautious at all times, especially when out in public. By practicing physical distancing, regular handwashing, and wearing a mask, one lowers the risk of exposure to and spreading the virus.

Knowing vital details such as how long the Coronavirus lasts and what to expect is the key to preparing one’s self. Sometimes, too much influx of information isn’t healthy but, In the case of Covid-19, gathering as much information surrounding the disease can help one cope better with the pandemic, specifically in order to avoid exposure to the virus.

Information Disclaimer

As of press time, all the information found in this article is considered to be true and accurate. However, as updates surrounding COVID-19 are continuously changing, there are some details that have changed since this article was posted. We strongly recommend everyone to stay up-to-date with the latest information by following relevant, credible such as the CDC and the WHO.

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