Coronavirus lives on hard surfaces for up to nine days: study

Mystery surrounds killer virus, but there’s one thing spreading faster than the virus itself.

How long does coronavirus live?

Individual fears of contracting the coronavirus range from ‘we’re all gonna die’ to ‘I basically have to French kiss an infected person to get it’.

Regardless of people’s fear of becoming infected, very little is known about how the virus can pass from one person to another or how long germs could live on surfaces.

By reviewing similar viruses, researchers now believe they’re able to provide some answers.

A study published in the Journal of Hospital Infections showed how long severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) – both of which contain coronavirus pathogens – survived on hard surfaces for up to nine days.

The standard lifespan of these germs is four to five days; however, they can live longer in low-temperature, humid environments.

The virus, which had been referred to as ‘Wuhan Virus’, has now been officially identified by the World Health Organization (WHO) as ‘COVID-19’.

Calling the virus ‘Wuhan Virus’ was problematic, as evidenced in the past when ‘Swine Flu’ led the Egyptian government to order the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of pigs.

According to the WHO guidelines for naming infectious diseases, in order to avoid negative repercussions from stigmatising a geographic area or a population group, names that refer to specific places, people and professions are discouraged.

It may be too late for many Asian people or people of Asian descent. According to a New Daily report, “everyday Australians of Chinese ancestry are facing abhorrent racism” and some Asian businesses have so few customers they’re being forced to cut back on staff and shut up shop at peak hours.

The report states: “It appears many people want to steer clear of areas heavily populated by Chinese people for fear of the coronavirus spreading”.

It doesn’t help when largely unsubstantiated stories circulate. There’s one in which a family contracts coronavirus while sharing a bowl of soup and another about a British businessman dubbed the ‘super spreader’, who has allegedly infected 11 people through touch alone. Other stories claim you can catch the virus from fortune cookies or that the virus is a biological weapon borne in ‘bat soup’.

Scientists are still trying to figure out exactly how the virus spreads. Currently, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says it’s most likely passed on by droplets from coughing and sneezing.

Still, there’s still a lot of myth and misinformation about the virus going around.

An article in The Conversation states that “The spread of misinformation about the novel coronavirus seems greater than the spread of the infection itself.

“Public health officials expect misinformation about disease outbreaks where people are frightened. This is particularly so when a disease is novel and the science behind it is not yet clear. It’s also the case when we still don’t know how many people are likely to become sick, have a life-threatening illness or die.”

And, as Junkee journalist Rachael Conaghan puts it: “If we know one thing about the internet era, it’s that fake news spreads faster than any virus ever could.”

So, wash your hands regularly, keep some sanitiser handy, don’t put your fingers in your mouth or nose after touching public surfaces, stay at home if you’re sick and cover your nose with your elbow or a tissue if you do sneeze.

Disinfecting hard surfaces, which coronavirus might be living on, is also important. Solutions containing ethanol, hydrogen peroxide, or sodium hypochlorite (bleach) are effective against coronaviruses.

It’s highly unlikely that you’ll catch coronavirus, but that shouldn’t prevent you from doing your best to prevent spreading other more common illnesses – or misinformation about those you don’t understand.

What’s the worst rumour you’ve heard about coronavirus? Are you worried about it? Has it affected your life in any way?

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    To make a comment, please register or login
    19th Feb 2020
    It affected me. I was supposed to be on a 18 day cruise around Asia. The cruise line changed some ports and regulations about boarding to reduce risk, then 3 days before, the cruise was cancelled. I was both disappointed and relieved. This is killing the tourist industry. We all need to be aware of the risks, and how to mitigate them.
    24th Feb 2020
    Hopefully you got your money back?
    19th Feb 2020
    Whose brilliant idea was it to confine the passengers of The Diamond Princess to the ship until they all gradually succumb to the coronaviris. Wouldn't it have been better to immediatly remove all passengers somewhere else to do their 14 days of quarantine. Prefferably in their own countries.
    Ted Wards
    19th Feb 2020
    You're forgetting about the hundreds of crew members as well as the port and custom crews. I was on a cruise in Jan this year and got back a few days before the outbreak and the ports I went to have closed in fear of the virus spreading and them not being able to cope with the illness. It's easier to keep them quarantined on a ship that have them all disperse through airports etc. That's how most viruses spread is through people travelling and taking their germs with them. That's how it got to Australia!
    19th Feb 2020
    So what is the difference now. After 14 days quarantine aboard the ship, they have now decided to bring them home for another 14 days quarantine in their home country. I like cruising, but only use the cabin to sleep. To be confined for that amount of time with no fresh air, ( apart from a few minutes daily on deck, I would be going troppo.
    Ted Wards
    19th Feb 2020
    Yeah I think the media has to take responsibility for spreading the fear with this virus...there's no other way we would of heard about it otherwise.
    19th Feb 2020
    I agree too much fear being spread and considering you are more likely to catch the measles than coronavirus (see the other post on Meeting place) the media is going troppo on it.
    14th Mar 2020
    There is no leadership from authorities, Ted, but there's plenty of fake news alarming people in the wrong way, plenty of leaders failing abysmally and still no clear message for how Australians should respond and behave.

    I heard the Chief Medical Officer, Brendan Murphy, this morning, telling people with a mild cold NOT to clog up the health system seeking a corona test. He'd only just finished saying the majority of people who have COVID-19 will only exhibit mild symptoms and they don't show any symptoms for 24 hours while they are actually contagious.

    Do the authorities want people with COVID-19 to be detected or not? It's as if they're leaving it up to individuals to make the call, while feeding us contradictory guidelines.

    The PM needs to step up now, even if he has to admit he's failed previously (because he really has been ridiculous, like a spoilt child who wants to see his footy team, while giving mixed messages to the public!). Seriously, I can't help but feel THIS WEEKEND is crucial, yet the PM has decided Monday is the day to act (like the virus and its spread is having the weekend off). Mixed messages! Hopeless!
    19th Feb 2020
    Keeping the passengers on the ship long-term seems to have been quite a bad decision. In this same issue it's stated that the virus can remain alive on hard surfaces for up to 9 days. Even if the passengers cannot move around on the ship, if they are infected then many many different surfaces in their cabin would be hosting the live virus. Even kept to a minimum staff must visit cabins to deliver meals and other items, and that includes every cabin on the ship. The staff could of course be careful to make minimal contact with everything in the cabins but they would be touching some things which would very likely be hosting the virus. So the chance of staff picking up the virus is quite strong and as we now see the number of folks infected is growing rapidly. Hindsight is of course wonderful but I wonder if it would have been better to get them all off the ship quickly and located in a much bigger facility which would provide space between the staff and the passengers and therefore massively reduced the amount of contact across everybody concerned.
    19th Feb 2020
    Forgive me for sounding silly, after reading about the germ spreading on hard surfaces, my question is can it spread by items posted from China?
    19th Feb 2020
    Oh come on. Australia Post can't deliver a letter across town in 9 days, so no worries on that score!
    19th Feb 2020
    "Forgive me for sounding silly, after reading about the germ spreading on hard surfaces, my question is can it spread by items posted from China?"

    Not a silly comment, a good question and a point which I very much hope has been considered well by both the Chinese and Australian authorities. Seems to me that it would also have been looked at by many other governments, On-line shopping alone means thousands of items shipped out of China daily to many countries. I'm hoping that whatever precautions are needed were put in place many days ago. China does massive business world wide 24 hours every day, they are not fools, they will be well aware they need to put precautions in place (days ago) to prevent massive loss of trade. And they would be well aware that if it was discovered this is an issue and they didn't take precautions then both short-term and long-term trust would suffer enormously, even sanctions by the world trade organization etc.

    19th Feb 2020
    Given that "..very little is known about how the virus can pass from one person to another or how long germs could live on surfaces.", and
    "..severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) – both of which contain coronavirus pathogens – survived on hard surfaces for up to nine days.",
    it is clear that our Chief Health Officer was moronic to suggest NO checks of people was necessary at airports with flights coming in from China when the news of this virus came out in late January. It took China banning flights out of Wuhan to make the authorities here wake up and stop people coming from China. This weak and irresponsible attitude should have resulted in sacking of this fellow, but guess what, just like those not planning to prevent bushfires with adequate resources, once again we see abject failure by a Govt department.

    I think we are just massively lucky that we haven't had a flood of coronavirus cases here by now (hope they are not covering that up too), as one person from Wuhan managed to get the disease spread to over 400 people on the Diamond Princess.

    I am also not sure the Public Health people tell the truth about how to prevent spread. For example, they talk of the importance of alcohol in hand sanitisers as important, but most hand wash soap solutions have ANTI-BACTERIAL ingredients only, i.e. no virus protection!!! I wonder if any medical person on this site can clarify this point - whether washing hands actually kills viruses, or are they simply being washed off!

    Incidentally, the hand sanitisers have disappeared from the shop & pharmacy shelves for weeks now, and I understand these are suffering the same issue as Infant Milk Powders earlier, and are being grabbed and sent off overseas possibly to China? No Govt action to regulate this supply & export - why not? No action by most shops too to stop people cleaning out the shelves as soon as they put them there - why not?
    19th Feb 2020
    No George. The first case did not spread the virus to 400 people. He may have passed the virus to 3-4 people. Its those that then each infected 3-4 others and so on. And all well before it was known to be transmitted before symptoms appeared. If not then you might as well blame the case zero in Woohan fish market.

    So what if there is no hand sanitiser? Soap and water for 20 seconds under running water is far more effective than antibacterial solutions in any case. Just wash your hands properly, not just a quick rinse under the tap.
    19th Feb 2020
    KSS, obviously I know one person didn't give it to 400 people. My point was that letting in one infected person resulted in 400 people getting infected as a multiplier effect. You seem to ignore my point that the Chief Medical Officer, Brendan Murphy, put Australia at serious risk by initially saying there is no need to check incoming passengers, as even a few infected people getting in would have created havoc across this country. Why are you trying to protect him - Govt bureaucratic buddy of yours?

    Your 2nd para does not answer my question which was directed to a medical person who actually knows the answer (nothing new in what you said), and did not need your pointless know-all response.
    Overall, both your comments have the talking-down to others (as if others don't know anything) superior approach. Get your "full-of-yourself" attitude checked.
    19th Feb 2020
    You need to check your ego GeorgeM before you cast aspersions about others, there are other just as valid opinions as your own.

    Hand washing removes the virus PROVIDED you wash properly with soap under running warm but not hot water for a minimum 20 seconds (sing happy birthday twice in your head)getting into all the crevices, under nails etc (like a surgeon) and then dry properly using paper towels which you then throw away. Hand sanitizers from the supermarket are fine against bacteria - useless against viruses as you say! Alcohol based sanitizers such as those in hospital and not generally available to the public DO kill viruses as well as bacteria and fungus. Biggest problem is that people either don't wash their hands at all or don't do it properly. Yes I work in health.

    And for the record, I am protecting no-one and you have no evidence otherwise.
    19th Feb 2020
    Looks like YOUR ego got pricked, KSS! The information you have provided is widely available and quite un-original. I did invite advice from a Medical person, by which I obviously meant a qualified person (as I don't claim to be a know-all like you with the big ego), not just anyone working in health.

    Your statement "Hand sanitizers from the supermarket are fine against bacteria - useless against viruses as you say!" is wrong, as firstly, I never said that (read again), and secondly, most hand sanitisers contain alcohol anyway which is good to kill viruses, hence NOT useless against viruses. Anyway, once again, move on, and let a qualified medical professional provide correct advice / response to my question.

    You have frequently stood up for the undeserved defined benefit pensions of politicians and bureaucrats, hence I am entitled to my opinion about your links to them and your tendency to protect them.
    20th Feb 2020
    The difference between us GeorgeM is that I do not insult other people nor do I make judgements about other peoples beliefs or even voting/support preferences (however wrong those judgements are) as you do. And that is what I have reacted to.

    Yes I have defended the pensions of some in public service because they are NOT the same as most workers and are a part of the terms and conditions under which those people are employed. There are other occupations that also have pension arrangements that differ from most. Good luck to them. And for the record, politicians on all sides are subject to the same pension arrangements so you have absolutely no evidence on which to make such sweeping claims about me (or anyone else for that matter).

    You are entitled to your OPINION as am I. You are not entitled to put words in my mouth.
    20th Feb 2020
    There you go again - making judgements about me! I always consider different opinions and always give my opinions free of any political bias (often indicated that I am independent), on the other hand you are clearly biased to the right-wing Lib party (I don't care about that) however also favouring the leeches (politicians) who suck out benefits by arranging for it themselves and deny others a fair go.

    Sure you can have your opinion, but indeed it was you who tried to put words into my mouth which I rejected. However being full-of-yourself (seen often here), as in this case, you insist on shoving your non-expert opinion forward when all I asked for was feedback from a qualified medical expert, i.e. FACTS not opinions. A few like you make it a habit here in YLC to divert discussions so that the original comment or query never gets answered properly.
    24th Feb 2020
    Washing hands thoroughly does NOT remove most of the contaminants but alcohol based disinfectants and sanitisers do as well as drying with paper towels. Heated blowers for hand drying only blow up contaminants into your face so not good and of course, never share towels.
    Luckily I have a sufficient supply of hand sanitizer as well as 60 SURGICAL MASKS which I bought from 2 pharmacies out of the 20 I visited.
    I bought the last of their supplies and was told that Asians had been driving from several suburbs away to buy them or place orders!
    Each mask had cost only under a dollar but NOW EACH SURGICAL MASK COSTS $10.00!
    That appears to be a black market price!
    19th Feb 2020
    Has not affected me, I feel it is all been blown out of proportion. More people die every day from preventable diseases. There is a long discussion on the meeting place about the coronavirus if anyone is interested lots of interesting data and comments there.
    24th Feb 2020
    It appears that this virus has an incubation period of up to 27 DAYS but as usual, government sources are behind the times!
    THIS means that people being released into the community after 14 DAYS QUARANTINE are spreading it thereon!
    Obviously, it is better to remove all people from a cruise ship into QUARANTINE on land and disinfecting the whole ship inside out thereafter than what has happened with the Diamond Princess which was in effect, a cesspool!
    I have been on the Royal Princess and the crew and it's operations were fantastic so otherwise, it's a sad thing for it to happen to this cruise line.
    29th Feb 2020
    Not worried at all! The upside is that with less international travel the earth will get a reprieve. Flying is one of the biggest contributors to green house gases affecting our climate. Also overtourism is a big issue these days, so it's great t6 get a pause for a change and see what life was like before the hordes of tourists hit our shores.
    14th Mar 2020
    I wonder about using an alternative to bar soap. I get rashes quickly from traditional bar soap because of the caustic soda content in the soap, so I use mild shampoo or a quality liquid body wash. My question is whether shampoo or body wash, used for 20 or 30 seconds and with attention to 'scrubbing' every part of the fingers and the hand is just as effective as bar soap? Further, I'm tying to wash my hands at least 10 times a day and immediately after I've had to touch door handles etc., etc., but often public wash rooms have no bar soap or there is a dispenser of liquid soap (but very likely to be poor quality and/or contain a very small amount of any active ingredient. For this reason I always have my own mid size bottle of quality shampoo in my pocket or my bag. Comments very welcome...
    14th Mar 2020
    The idea is to wash the "particles" off your hands, so any type of soapy thing would work, you could also make up some lavender, tea tree and/or eucalyptus oil in a small spray bottle mixed with water and it will do the same thing and kill bacteria as well.

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