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 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 his or her 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 at this point, we don’t know how much of a viral load in that aerosol you need to inhale in order to come down with infection….so that is still an 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 prove this one way or another.

Regardless, although airplanes do filter the air, it’s not 100% effective at filtering out all of the aerosols. Also, because the virus spreads through contact as well, having a bunch of people on an airplane is a recipe to spread the virus.

This also impacts the healthcare side of things, 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 very limited.

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

In that same study that I just 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 people who are infected 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, its about 5-6 days. But because of this incubation periods, that means that the virus silently spreads during this time, and that is another reason is why its so hard to slow the spread of the virus. 

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 just 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.

Its also about washing your hands diligently, and doing it correctly.

Lets be real, 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 bathroom, 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 really important.

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

And definitely do not touch your eyes, nose, or mouth, unless your hands are clean, because that’s how you are going to 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.

Dr. Mike Hansen, MD
Internal Medicine | Pulmonary Disease | Critical Care Medicine

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