The coronavirus is more resilient than a typical flu virus.
One of the major uncertainties with the coronavirus, and indeed, any new virus, is the unsurety of how long it’s actually hovering around us or sitting on us. It’s not like you can see the presence of germs on a particular surface, so all we can really do is try to keep surfaces as clean as possible. However, there is one especially important surface that we need to be mindful of: our skin.
According to a new study published in Clinical Infectious Diseases, SARS-CoV-2, better known as the coronavirus, can survive on the surface of human skin for approximately nine hours. That’s far longer than a typical influenza virus, which can only survive on human skin for around two hours.
“The 9-hour survival of SARS-CoV-2 on human skin may increase the risk of contact transmission in comparison with influenza A virus, thus accelerating the pandemic,” the researchers advised. “Proper hand hygiene is important to prevent the spread of SARS-CoV-2 infections.”
Thankfully, there’s some good news here; in addition to the virus’ lifespan, the study turned up its fatal weakness, something many people have already been using: 80% ethanol, a staple ingredient of everyday hand sanitizer. According to the study, when the virus comes into contact with 80% ethanol, it is completely killed in about fifteen seconds.
The Center for Disease Control has recommended hand washing with soap and water as the primary means of cleaning your skin. In the event soap and a sink aren’t available, though, 80% ethanol hand sanitizer is a viable alternative, provided you completely cover your hands with it and rub them together until they feel dry. If your hand sanitizer doesn’t have 80% ethanol, as some cheaper ones may only have 60%, that’s okay too; it just takes a little longer for it to kill the virus.
The primary means of viral transmission is still airborne respiratory droplets, so masks are still our first line of defense. Infection is possible from a contaminated touch, though, so remember to keep those hands clean. It’s either that or sit by yourself, not touching anything, for nine hours.