A WhatsApp message claiming the duration the novel strain of Coronavirus can survive in the air and on other surfaces has been doing the rounds on social media.
The forward comes with a link to a news article by CNBC. One of our community members sent us the forward on our WhatsApp Fact Check number and asked us to verify the claim.
CNBC has reported that COVID-19 survives in the air for 8 hours, and 3-4 hours on paper and plastic.
The claim is misleading. The CNBC article in reference here does mention some of the claims but not all.
The CNBC article is titled 'WHO considers 'airborne precautions' for medical staff after study shows coronavirus can survive in the air'
According to the article, "The virus is transmitted through droplets, or little bits of liquid, mostly through sneezing or coughing"
"When you do an aerosol-generating procedure like in a medical care facility, you have the possibility to what we call aerosolize these particles, which means they can stay in the air a little bit longer," CNBC quoted Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, head of WHO's emerging diseases and zoonosis unit, as saying.
The article also reported that Robert Redfield, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has stated that the agency was aggressively evaluating how long COVID-19 can survive, particularly on surfaces.
"On copper and steel, it's pretty typical, it's pretty much about two hours," Redfield said.
"But I will say on other surfaces — cardboard or plastic — it's longer, and so we are looking at this," he added. Redfield also stated that infections contracted from surfaces rather than through the air could have contributed to the outbreak on the Diamond Princess cruise ship.
So the claim that COVID-19 can survive for 3-4 hours on paper is false and has no mention in the article.
What Has WHO Said Till Now?
It is not certain how long the virus that causes COVID-19 survives on surfaces, but it seems to behave like other coronaviruses. Studies suggest that coronaviruses (including preliminary information on the COVID-19 virus) may persist on surfaces for a few hours or up to several days. This may vary under different conditions (e.g. type of surface, temperature or humidity of the environment).
If you think a surface may be infected, clean it with simple disinfectant to kill the virus and protect yourself and others. Clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water. Avoid touching your eyes, mouth, or nose.
This information is available on the WHO website, which they stated "will be updated as more is known about COVID-19, how it spreads and how it is affecting people worldwide"
Therefore, if any new facts on the novel coronavirus crop up, we can trust WHO to mention it on its official website.
How Does The Virus Spread?
According to WHO, People can catch COVID-19 from others who have the virus. The disease can spread from person to person through small droplets from the nose or mouth which are spread when a person with COVID-19 coughs or exhales.
These droplets land on objects and surfaces around the person. Other people then catch COVID-19 by touching these objects or surfaces, then touching their eyes, nose or mouth. People can also catch COVID-19 if they breathe in droplets from a person with COVID-19 who coughs out or exhales droplets. This is why it is important to stay more than 1 meter (3 feet) away from a person who is sick.
Does The Novel Coronavirus Survive In Air For 8 Hours?
While the Coronavirus can survive in the air and is airborne, it does not last up to 8 hours. In the article too, nowhere is it stated that the virus can survive for just eight hours.
A study titled "Aerosol and Surface Stability of SARS-CoV-2 as Compared with SARS-CoV-1" showed that the SARS-CoV2 (name of the novel coronavirus) can survive in the air for up to three hours.
The study makes the following observations:
SARS-CoV-2 remained viable in aerosols throughout the duration of the experiment (3 hours)
SARS-CoV-2 was more stable on plastic and stainless steel than on copper and cardboard, and the viable virus was detected up to 72 hours after application to these surfaces.
Aerosol transmission of SARS-CoV-2 is plausible since the virus can remain viable and infectious in aerosols for hours and on surfaces up to days.
The experiment was done using a nebuliser to recreate the effect of a cough.
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