How long does coronavirus live on certain surfaces?

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A worker wipes down a stair rail at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

(KTVI) — COVID-19 can live in the air up to three hours and on certain surfaces for several days, according to a recent study in “The New England Journal of Medicine.”

Scientists from the National Institutes of Health, CDC, UCLA and Princeton University conducted the study and penned the conclusion paper.

They sought to examine the stability of COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2) as well as comparing this particular strain of coronavirus with the similar SARS virus (SARS-CoV-1) that appeared in the early 2000s.

According to the NIH, SARS infected more than 8,000 people in 2002 and 2003. No cases have been detected since 2004.

But if the two viruses are so similar, why was SARS so limited in its spread in contrast to COVID-19? The answer may be two-fold.

The study found that COVID-19 survived on surfaces longer than SARS.

Scientists could detect COVID-19 in the air up to three hours after it was introduced, up to four hours on copper, 24 hours on cardboard, 48 hours on stainless steel and up to 72 hours on plastic surfaces.

Source: The New England Journal of Medicine

In addition, the study suggests COVID-19 has greater success in spreading because carriers may be asymptomatic or they may not recognize the symptoms quickly enough.

As always, the NIH and other healthcare professionals are advising the public to develop and maintain good, safe habits to combat the spread of coronavirus:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
  • Stay home when you are sick
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe

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