US Army study reveals coronavirus can stay active on skin from 8 hours to 14 days depending on temperature

So far there is no evidence on the possible spread of COVID-19 through animal products.

Myupchar July 06, 2020 14:39:17 IST
US Army study reveals coronavirus can stay active on skin from 8 hours to 14 days depending on temperature

COVID-19 is a respiratory disease that spreads through droplet infection. When someone coughs, sneezes or even speaks, they release tiny droplets into the air that can infect a healthy person if they come in direct contact with them. These droplets can also settle on surfaces, so when you touch the contaminated objects (called fomites) and then touch your face or mouth the virus can enter your body.

A group of researchers led by Dr David Harbourt, the biological safety officer at the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, say that SARS-CoV-2, the causative agent of the COVID-19 disease, can stay on the skin for about eight hours at 37 degree Celsius and for about four days at 22 degree Celsius. It can stay for extended periods of time (at least 14 days as seen by the study) at 4 degree Celsius. The study also discusses the spread of COVID-19 through refrigerated meat.

The study is still in the preprint phase and is not peer-reviewed yet.

The study

For their research, the Harbourt and team studied the viability of the COVID-19 causing virus on pig skin, US dollars and clothing at various temperatures.

They found that skin was the most hospitable environment for the virus, though with increasing temperatures it decayed more quickly. The virus remained stable on dollar bills for up to eight hours at 22 degrees celsius and four hours at 37 degrees celsius. The virus was found to be stable for 96 hours on clothing samples at 4 degrees celsius and four hours at 22 degree Celsius. The study did not mention what kind of cloth they used for the experiment.

Justifying their use of pigskin, Harbourt wrote in the study that pigskin is quite similar to human skin. It is, in fact, used in place of human skin in burn surgeries as well. The researchers believe that if the experiment was repeated on human skin, similar results would be obtained.

Fomites and Food

Fomites or high-touch surfaces are one of the many ways the coronavirus can spread from one person to another. Coming in contact with a fomite and then touching your face could provide entry into the body to the virus. This makes the sanitising of fomites and breaking the habit of touching your face very important.

According to an earlier study, even medical students (who understand the transmission of microbes well) touch their face about 23 times every hour. Most experts suggest that handwashing is the best way to prevent the spread of the disease as washing your hands with soap and water for about 20 seconds at a time can clean away most microbes.

Another aspect the study discussed was the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus from the meatpacking and processing industry. The meat has to be kept at low temperatures during the packing and processing procedures. So say a person at the processing plant has the disease -- the virus may end up on the meat (which is similar to animal skin) and could stay on it for extended periods of time. If you were to consume such contaminated products, you could get the infection.

So far, there is no evidence on the possible spread of COVID-19 through animal products. However, uncooked meat is known to be able to spread a lot of other infections. The World Health Organisation suggests that meats and eggs should always be cooked thoroughly before being consumed.

For more information, read our article on How long can SARS-CoV-2 survive on different surfaces

Health articles in Firstpost are written by myUpchar.com, India’s first and biggest resource for verified medical information. At myUpchar, researchers and journalists work with doctors to bring you information on all things health.

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