13 March 2020
Studies show the new coronavirus can live in the air for several hours and on some surfaces for as long as two to three days.
United States government scientists and other experts reported Wednesday on tests involving the coronavirus. They found that in addition to person-to-person contact, it can spread through the air as well as from objects that an infected person has touched.
The new virus has infected more than 120,000 people and caused more than 4,300 deaths around the world.
The number of infections and deaths is far greater than the number during the SARS outbreak in 2003. SARS -- short for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome -- was caused by a genetically similar virus.
For the new study, researchers used a device called a nebulizer to release particles of the new virus into the air. This is similar to what might happen if an infected person coughs or expels the virus into the air.
The researchers learned that the viral particles could be measured up to three hours later in the air, and up to four hours later on copper. They found the particles up to 24 hours later on a piece of cardboard and up to two to three days later on plastic and stainless steel.
Scientists noted similar results when they tested the virus that caused the SARS outbreak in 2003. So, the results do not clear up why the new coronavirus is spreading so much more widely and easily.
The tests were performed at the U.S. National Institutes of Health, Princeton University and the University of California, Los Angeles. The U.S. government and the National Science Foundation provided financing for the study.
The findings were published on a website where researchers can quickly share their work before publication. They have yet to be examined by other scientists.
Julie Fischer is a microbiology professor at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. She called the research "a solid piece of work that answers questions people have been asking."
Fischer said it also demonstrates the value and importance of the main piece of advice from public health officials.
"What we need to be doing is washing our hands, being aware that people who are infected may be contaminating surfaces," and keeping hands away from the face, she said.
I'm Dorothy Gundy.
The Associated Press reported this story. Ashley Thompson adapted the report for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.
Words in This Story
outbreak - n. a sudden start or increase of fighting or disease
cardboard - n. a stiff and thick kind of paper that is used especially for making boxes
contaminate - v. to make (something) dangerous, dirty, or impure by adding something harmful or undesirable to it