Coronavirus stable on the skin up to 8-14 days depending on temperature
COVID-19 is a respiratory disease that transmits through droplet infection. The little droplets are released into the air when someone coughs, sneezes, or even speaks, which can infect a healthy person if they come in straight contact with them. These droplets can also settle on surfaces, so when you touch the contaminated objects (called fomites) and afterward touch your face or mouth the infection can enter your body and infect you.
SARS-CoV-2, the causative agent of the COVID-19 disease, can remain on the skin for about 8 hours at 37°C and for about 4 days at 22°C. It can stay for an extensive period (at least 14 days as seen by the research) at 4°C. Additionally, the research discusses the spread of COVID-19 through refrigerated meat, said a team of researchers led by Dr. David Harbourt, the biological safety officer, the US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases.
The research is not yet peer-reviewed and is still in the preprint phase.
Harbourt and his team studied the viability of the SARS-CoV-2 virus at various temperature levels on pig skin, cloth, and US dollars.
The outcomes of the study showed that skin was one of the most hospitable environments for the coronavirus and was more stable on the skin, though with increasing temperature levels it decomposed faster. The coronavirus remained stable on dollar bills for up to 8 hours at 22°C and 4 hours at 37°C. On cloth samples, the virus was found to be stable for 96 hours at 4°C and 4 hours at 22°C. It was not mentioned what kind of cloth was used for the research.
Harbourt wrote in the research study – justifying their use of pigskin, that pigskin is quite similar to human skin. In fact, it is used in place of human skin in burn surgeries also. The team believes that similar results would be obtained if the experiment was repeated on human skin.
Fomites and Food
High-touch surfaces or fomites are among the many routes the coronavirus can spread from one person to another. Coming in contact with a fomite and then touching your face might provide the virus the entry into the body. This makes the sanitizing of fomites as well as breaking the habit of touching your face is extremely essential.
As per the previous studies, even medical students (who understand the transmission of microbes well) touch their face about 23 times in an hour. Most experts suggest that handwashing is the most effective means to avoid the spread of the disease as washing your hands with soap and water for about 20 seconds each time can clean up away most microorganisms.
An additional aspect of the research discussed was the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus from the meatpacking and processing unit. During the packaging and processing procedures, the meat needs to be maintained at low temperatures. So, if an individual at the processing unit has the disease – the virus may end up on the meat (which resembles animal skin) and can stay on it for a prolonged time, and if you were to intake such contaminated food, you might get infected.
Until now, there is no proof of the feasible spread of COVID-19 with animal products. But, raw meat is known to be able to spread a lot of other infections. The WHO recommends that meats and eggs must constantly be cooked thoroughly before eating.
Author: Sruthi S