NIH Study Shows COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2 Stable for Hours on Surfaces


SARS-CoV-2 was detectable in aerosols for up to 3 hours, up to 4 hours on copper, up to 24 hours on cardboard, and up to 3 days on plastic and stainless steel.

According to a new study from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), CDC, UCLA, and Princeton University, the virus that causes coronavirus (COVID-19), known as severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), can stay stable for several hours to days in aerosols and on surfaces.

The researchers found that SARS-CoV-2 was detectable in aerosols for up to 3 hours, up to 4 hours on copper, up to 24 hours on cardboard, and up to 3 days on plastic and stainless steel.

By comparing how the environment affects SARS-CoV-2 and SARS-CoV-1, the study team attempted to mimic the virus being deposited from an infected person onto everyday surfaces in a household or hospital setting, such as through coughing or touching objects. After this, the team further investigated how long the virus remained infectious on these surfaces.

The highlights of the study included that people infected with SARS-CoV-2 might be spreading the virus without recognizing or prior to recognizing symptoms, making the disease control measures that were effective against SARS-CoV-1 less effective against its successor.

In contrast to SARS-CoV-1, many of the secondary cases of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 appear to be occurring in community settings rather than health care settings. Still, health care settings are also vulnerable to the introduction and spread of SARS-CoV-2. The stability of SARS-CoV-2 in aerosols and on surfaces likely contributes to transmission of the virus in health care settings, according to the NIH.

The findings suggest that people may acquire the virus through the air and after touching contaminated objects. The researchers urged precautions similar to those for influenza and other respiratory viruses to prevent the spread of SARS-CoV-2, such as:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.


New coronavirus stable for hours on surfaces. NIH. Published March 17, 2020. Accessed March 18, 2020.

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