COVID-19, the global pandemic that has been caused by the novel coronavirus, has created a lot of anxiety and confusion among people. People have multiple questions and the commonest queries are :
● Can groceries or shoes cause COVID?
● Is getting or opening a parcel safe?
● What about doorknobs or lift buttons?
All of them point towards one cause to consider, and that is; “The viability of the SARS-Cov-2 virus on various surfaces.”
In a scientific research study published by The Lancet- one of the leading medical journals, the virus’s viability was tested under different simulated conditions.
Multiple research studies that were based out of Princeton University and the University of California, Los Angeles, have tested the virus under different simulated conditions to understand its survival outside the host’s body.
Although there have been many research articles examining the integrity of coronavirus outside the host’s body; they have primarily been based on different types of coronaviruses; not particularly SARS-Cov-2. The experimental evidence on the new SARS-Cov-2 has unfortunately been limited, but it has been found that all coronaviruses are incredibly resilient. Understanding this helps us be aware of the mechanism by which the spread of the virus happens.
Coronavirus on Different Surfaces
The exact intensity of spread depends upon the type or kind of surface that the virus may drop on, the amount (specific density ) of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in it, and the room’s sunlight and temperature conditions. Therefore it may be hard to replicate the same conditions as an outside environment, but the laboratory simulations have provided the following results.
A Lancet published study revealed that the COVID-19 strain could survive on clothes for a day and on stainless steel and plastic for up to 4 days.
Another research from the University of Bonn, Germany, has found viral RNA strands in up to 3% of the samples taken from frequently used items like handles and doorknobs and up to 15% in pieces taken from washrooms and toilets.
To understand the mechanism, a comparison was drawn from another type of coronavirus, SARS-CoV-1, that was responsible for causing the 2003 SARS pandemic. Strains of both the virus particles were put on multiple surfaces, including objects of daily use like- cardboard packages or steel doorknobs, or plastic bottles.
After multiple research studies, it was finally understood that the virus could be found for up to 72 hours on plastic, which seemed to be of significant concern.
Stainless steel had strains of the SARS-CoV-2 virus for up to 12 hours, copper, on the other hand, had the strain for only up to 4 hours, and cardboard had a viable amount for upto 24 hours. That means after 24 hours; it was safe to touch the cardboard packages as disease-causing virus strains were not in significant amounts, or enough to cause infections anymore.
However, the study cannot be considered absolute because the conditions such as sunlight or temperature may differ from those of the laboratory’s simulated conditions.
What about Packages and Paper?
The most common question pops up in a reader’s mind is- Whether it is safe to open that parcel lying around? Is it safe to order something from e-commerce portals?
The possibility of getting infected by handling a package or mail is very low, and moreover, there have been no documented cases of the same. Therefore , after exercising adequate precautions, reading a newspaper or opening a package can be deemed safe. Just handling the boxes with care and washing your hands after opening them is a safe option .If you wish to be extra safe, then you could let the package sit for 24 hours before opening it.
What if you are taking care of a COVID-19 positive person and have to make frequent trips to the hospital?
A recent study published by researchers from the Imperial College, London proved to be very alarming. They confirmed that the viral DNA strain left on the hospital’s bed railing in an isolation room had soon spread to multiple other surfaces- including waiting room area chairs, children’s toys, and books in the play area and doorknobs and handles.
It shows just how far a virus in a droplet of liquid that lands on a bed can spread by people touching surfaces. Therefore if you’re taking care of someone who’s down with COVID-19 or have to make multiple visits to the hospital, taking proper precautions is exceptionally vital. Establishing measures like using a mask, gloves, and maintaining a 6-feet distance at all times become the most critical barrier that can keep you from getting infected.
Disinfection Methods and Strategies
Multiple research articles have shown that coronaviruses can be inactivated within a minute by disinfecting surfaces with 70% alcohol. Hence alcohol-based sanitizers and disinfectants should be used to wipe commonly used surfaces frequently. Items like mobile phones should either be left at home or thoroughly wiped with a disinfectant. Perishables brought from outside should be thoroughly washed under running water, and other packages should be thoroughly sprayed and sanitized.
What’s next in store? Considering that India is easing lockdown measures significantly, personal hygiene will play an important role in containing the disease’s spread. Even though the lockdown restrictions may have been removed, it is essential to exercise precaution for the safety of those who are vulnerable . Infants and older people need to be taken care of.
We can mitigate COVID-19 transmission from surfaces as long as adequate sanitization methods are practiced. Avoid touching frequently used surfaces like doorknobs or handles, wash your hands at regular intervals, and keep a sanitizer with you at all times. Some general precautions that should be followed are-
● Ensuring that you’re wearing a mask at all times when you are heading outdoors.
● Carrying an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with you at all times or immediately washing your hands with soap and water when you reach home.
● Maintaining adequate social distancing from people when meeting them
● Take immediate precautions to isolate yourself if you develop any symptoms. Do make an appointment and talk to a physician today.
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