Coronavirus Lingers For 3 Hours in the Air and For Days on Surfaces, a Study Finds

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A new study on the stability of the novel coronavirus revealed just how long infectious particles can remain stable on solid surfaces and in the air, key information for healthcare providers and the general population as the health crisis continues. Published March 17 in The New England Journal of Medicine, the study tested how long particles of the coronavirus could remain viable, or able to infect people, in the air and on surfaces like plastic, stainless steel, copper, and cardboard.

When researchers released virus particles into the air, mimicking a sneeze or cough, they remained viable for at least three hours, the duration of the experiment’s timeline. The study found that particles persisted more strongly on surfaces, though the virus lost some viability over time in both aerosols and on surfaces.

  • Plastic and stainless steel: particles remained viable for three days.
  • Cardboard: one day
  • Copper: four hours

Related: The World Health Organization Answered Some of Your Most-Asked Questions on the Coronavirus

The study also compared the novel coronavirus’s viability to the virus that caused SARS (which is also classified as a coronavirus) in the early 2000s, finding that both viruses behaved similarly in terms of stability. This means that scientists still aren’t sure why the novel coronavirus has become so much more widespread in comparison. SARS infected more than 8,000 people in 2002 and 2003, while the novel coronavirus has infected over 193,100 worldwide as of the study’s release.

The new information does underscore the importance of adhering to recommended safety measures during the ongoing outbreak, such as:

Here are more doctor-approved ways to prevent and treat the novel coronavirus.

POPSUGAR aims to give you the most accurate and up-to-date information about the coronavirus, but details and recommendations about this pandemic may have changed since publication. For the latest information on COVID-19, please check out resources from the WHO, CDC, and local public health departments.

Related: Coronavirus: Here’s When You Should Wear a Face Mask, Doctors Say

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