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How Long Does the COVID Live on Surfaces? 

By  Dr. Mike Hansen

How Long Does the COVID Live on Surfaces: This video is about how the virus is transmitted, how long the SARS-CoV-2 virus lives on surfaces, and how long it persists in the aerosol. Person-to-person spread of the virus mainly occurs through respiratory droplets. Whenever an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks, those droplets can infect another person if it makes direct contact with the mucous membranes; infection can also occur if a person touches an infected surface and then touches their eyes, nose, or mouth.

Droplets typically do not travel more than six feet. And there is now a new non-peer-reviewed study that just came out by NIH that shows the virus remains in aerosol for up to 3 hours. Now, we don’t know how much of a viral load in that aerosol you need to inhale to come down with infection….so that is still unknown at this point.

So just because it remains aerosolized for up to 3 hours does not necessarily prove that it is airborne transmission, but I would think that’s the case. More studies are needed to confirm this one way or another.

How Long Does the COVID Live on Surfaces


Regardless, although airplanes filter the air, it’s not 100% effective at filtering out all aerosols. Also, because the virus spreads through contact, having many people on an airplane is a recipe for spreading the virus.

This also impacts the healthcare side because there are only 1,000 or so ICU beds in the entire country, and the number of airborne isolation rooms in hospitals is also minimal.

Which leads me to the next question, how long does it live on surfaces?

In that same study that I mentioned, they determined that the virus lives up to 4 hours on copper, up to 24 hours on cardboard, and 2 to 3 days on plastic and stainless steel.

And this is part of the reason why this virus is spreading like crazy.

Then you throw in the fact that some infected people don’t have any symptoms at all, or if they do have symptoms, it sometimes takes up to two weeks before they start showing those symptoms. In other words, the incubation period is up to 14 days. On average, though, it’s about 5-6 days. Because of these incubation periods, the virus silently spreads during this time, which is why it’s so hard to slow down the spread. 

Also, your body has these things called ACE2 receptors. They are located within the tiny little air sacs (alveoli) within your lungs. The virus has this spike protein, which acts like a key, and the ACE2 receptor is like the lock on the front door of your house. And the virus walks right in.

So when you combine all these different factors, it makes sense why this virus spreads so quickly. 

And this is why the number of cases is going to continue to rise. As of right now, it’s around 3,000 or so. But each person can do something about that. It’s not just about staying home as much as you can.

It’s also about washing your hands diligently and doing it correctly.

Let’s be honest; most of us don’t wash our hands enough. And most of us don’t wash our hands correctly.

I’ve seen you guys in the men’s bathroom before this outbreak started; after guys using the toilet, maybe 10-20% of you wash your hands. Come on now.

Well, at least, since this outbreak, that percentage has gone up. But washing your hands often, and doing it the right way, is essential.

And, when it comes to hand sanitizer, think of that as a backup to soap and water. Like when you need to wash your hands but don’t have access to soap and water.

And do not touch your eyes, nose, or mouth unless your hands are clean because that’s how you will bring that virus into your body.

And if you have access to disinfectant wipes, wipe down commonly used areas.

And avoid sick people.
Avoid large crowds.
Skip the handshakes for now.
We understand—no big deal.

Now there are a bunch of studies on proper handwashing. It’s the most important thing you can do to reduce your risk of getting the virus, as well as spreading the virus.

Doctor Mike Hansen, MD
Internal Medicine | Pulmonary Disease | Critical Care Medicine

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