How Long Does the Coronavirus Live?

As the fear of coming into contact with the novel coronavirus increases, people are asking how long the virus can live on surfaces and in the air.

There’s no one easy answer because the virus can live for different lengths of time on different surfaces, but a new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine sought to break down those risks.

The study found that the half-life of the virus hanging in the air is about one hour. But researchers still could measure viable virus in the air after three hours.

Todd Green, Ph.D., a virologist and an associate professor in UAB’s Department of Microbiology, said in a statement issued by UAB that several factors influence how long the virus could live in the air. “Humidity and temperature are some factors that would impact the viability of the virus,” he said, explaining that the hotter and more humid it is, the less viable the virus will be.

“Also, if you are outside or if you are walking, factors like wind and other forces could cause the virus to fall to the ground or on a surface,” he said in the statement.

The study also found that the virus could live:

  • Up to three days on plastic and stainless steel.
  • Up to 24 hours on cardboard.
  • Up to four hours on copper.

According to Green, the study found that the amount of virus decreased rapidly over time on each of those surfaces, which means the risk of infection would likely decrease over time as well.

The amount of virus present also determines the level of risk it presents, Green said.

There are a number of preventative steps that could cut down on the risk of contracting coronavirus from surfaces.

“Packages will be coming from a number of hands, and you might not know the symptom status of everyone who touched it along the way,” Jodie Dionne-Odom, M.D., assistant professor in the infectious diseases division said in the statement. “Wash your hands after opening and handling the package. That will kill the germs.”

She also advised people to disinfect frequently touched surfaces with isopropyl alcohol, avoid touching your face with unwashed hands, and cover your mouth with a tissue or a sleeve when you cough or sneeze.

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