What is the risk of contracting viruses such as COVID-19 from surfaces?

Based on what we know about other respiratory diseases, the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) says it's possible a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose or possibly their eyes.

A widely accepted study in the New England Journal of Medicine published in March is still considered to provide the best evidence of how long coronavirus can last on different types of surfaces.

Under experimental conditions it found:

  • The virus could still be detected on stainless steel and plastic after 72 hours

  • No viable SARS-CoV-2 could be detected on a cardboard surface after 24 hours

  • No viable SARS-CoV-2 could be detected on a copper surface after four hours

Susy Hota, an infection prevention and control expert at the University of Toronto, says much has been learnt about surface spread as the pandemic unfolded. "Early research showed the virus could survive on surfaces for up to six days, which was worrisome," she says.

Surfaces touched by high volumes of people are still of the most concern.

Don't stress too much about picking up coronavirus from your mail or groceries, instead think about frequently touched surfaces like door handles, hand rails and lift buttons. END

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