Touching contaminated objects and then infecting ourselves with the germs is not typically how the virus spreads.
However, it can happen, so be prepared..
The novel coronavirus is spread by droplets dispersed when an infected person sneezes, coughs or just talks. According to a study in the New England Journal of Medicine, the virus can hang about as droplets in the air for up to three hours. When the droplets fall, they can cling to the surfaces they land on, or be transferred to surfaces by the touch of the infected person.
If you, in turn, touch those surfaces, you could get infected by unconsciously touching your nose, mouth or eyes – which researchers found we do on average 23 times an hour (in a study in the American Journal of Infection Control).
There’s still much to be discovered about the virus, but tests so far have found that it can survive on various surfaces for anything from a few hours to a number of days, though this can vary with environmental factors such as exposure to sunlight, heat and cold.
What studies have shown so far
Studies so far suggest that the virus lasts longest on hard, shiny surfaces such metal, glass, ceramics and plastic (think door handles, taps, kitchen counters, your cellphone and keyboard), remaining active for around three days. It lasts less long on porous, fibrous and absorbent surfaces such as cardboard, paper, fabric and hessian, and probably becomes inactive after about 24 hours.
Can you bring the virus home on your clothes?
It’s still unclear how long it survives on clothing, as today many items contain elements of plastic and metal – it could be anything from a few hours to several days. It seems safest to take off your clothes when you get in from shopping. Put them in a disposable plastic bag, then when you have enough garments, launder them on a hot cycle and dry them well – both stages help kill the virus.
How can you protect yourself from coronavirus on various surfaces?
It goes without saying that you should wash your hands well whenever you get in, even take a shower, and put on something clean. Leave your shoes outside.
Wipe down everything you bring into your home, from canned foods to your cellphone, using diluted household bleach, or for your phone, alcohol wipes. Throw cardboard and other packaging away in a bin with a lid. UNICEF also advises that you wash unpackaged produce such as vegetables and fruit under running water.
And be sure to clean the high-touch zones in your home daily, including door handles, kitchen and bathroom surfaces, cellphones, computers and remote controls.
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