The spread of the coronavirus disease COVID-19 has spurred a surge in sales of cleaning and disinfection products. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends regular cleaning of frequently touched surfaces, along with thorough hand washing—both standard practices for helping slow the spread of viruses and bacteria.
Although there’s good evidence the novel coronavirus is one of the easiest types of viruses to kill, scientists are still determining its exact nature and how big a role surface transmission plays in its spread. As researchers rush to understand the new pathogen, the US EPA is working to provide the public with information about disinfectants that can help slow its spread.
How do we know disinfectants should kill the COVID-19 coronavirus? The novel virus is one of the easiest virus types to deactivate, though SARS-CoV-2–specific data are lacking.
Speed is of the essence, because surfaces such as doorknobs, countertops, and electronic equipment can transmit viral and bacterial diseases. It may be possible for the virus to spread on surfaces, too. Scientists know that similar respiratory viruses can settle on surfaces, where they can linger in an active state for days, protected in a cozy covering of mucus. Although scientists aren’t sure yet how long the novel coronavirus remains active on a surface, one study done in a hospital found that similar coronaviruses can persist on hard surfaces like glass, metal, or plastic for up to 9 days (Journal of Hospital Infection 2020, DOI: 10.1016/j.jhin.2020.01.022). Another study, recently published on medRxiv and not yet peer reviewed, found that SARS-CoV-2 remains stable on plastic and stainless steel for 2–3 days. (MedRxiv 2020, DOI: 10.1101/2020.03.09.20033217). The authors also published their data in a correspondence in the New England Journal of Medicine (2020, DOI: 10.1056/NEJMc2004973).