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NPR Health

How Long Can Coronavirus Survive On Hard Surfaces?

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

The importance of the advice that we've been given by the White House coronavirus task force - advice which includes avoiding touching surfaces outside our homes - it's bolstered by new research just published in The New England Journal of Medicine. NPR's Allison Aubrey reports researchers have found the virus can live on some surfaces for up to two or three days.

ALLISON AUBREY, BYLINE: The new study looked at the novel coronavirus in a laboratory setting and found the virus can survive for up to 72 hours on stainless steel and plastic surfaces, and on cardboard up to 24 hours. Jamie Lloyd-Smith of UCLA is one of the authors.

JAMIE LLOYD-SMITH: We're talking about potentially days of infectivity on some of these surfaces.

AUBREY: And that means if a person infected with coronavirus sneezes or coughs out bits of virus onto, say, a doorknob or handrail and then you touch that, you could become infected. Infectious disease experts still think that the primary way the virus spreads is through person-to-person contact. But today at the White House, physician Deborah Birx, who is the response coordinator for the White House coronavirus task force, says given new evidence on surface contamination, it makes sense to be very cautious.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DEBORAH BIRX: We're still working out - how much is it by human-human transmission, and how much is it by surface? And this is why those fundamental guidelines were put out that says don't expose yourself to surfaces outside the home.

AUBREY: Experts say following these guidelines would help prevent the spread of the virus.

Allison Aubrey, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.