The coronavirus can remain in the air for hours and on surfaces for days, according to a study by government and academic scientists.
The authors of the study published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine concluded that both infected air and surfaces “may directly affect virus transmission,” although there is no direct evidence that anyone has been infected through breathing in the virus or touching contaminated surfaces.
The study was conducted at the National Institutes of Health’s Rocky Mountain Lab in Hamilton, Montana, where the researchers sprayed samples of the virus into the air to imitate what would happen if a coronavirus patient were to cough. They found that the virus could be present in the air for up to three hours and up to three days on plastic or steel surfaces.
The authors’ findings have not been reviewed by other scientists yet, but Julie Fischer, a microbiology professor at Georgetown University, told the Associated Press that “it’s a solid piece of work that answers questions people have been asking.”
“What we need to be doing is washing our hands, being aware that people who are infected may be contaminating surfaces,” Fischer said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that people wash their hands for at least 20 seconds, disinfect surfaces, and stay home if they’re sick. The CDC has not confirmed whether the virus is transmitted through the air, only that it is spreading among people quickly. So far, over 121,000 people have been infected globally, and more than 4,300 have died.