The novel coronavirus which has led to the death of over 700 people in China may stay infectious for up to nine days, researchers have warned.
On average, they survive between four and five days, according to the study published in the Journal of Hospital Infection.
“Low temperature and high air humidity further increase their lifespan,” explained Professor Gunter Kampf from the Institute of Hygiene and Environmental Medicine at the Greifswald University Hospital in Germany.
Together with Professor Eike Steinmann, Head of the Department for Molecular and Medical Virology at Ruhr-Universitat Bochum (RUB) in Germany, Kampf has compiled findings from 22 studies on coronaviruses and their inactivation for a future textbook.
The evaluated studies focus on the pathogens Sars coronavirus and Mers coronavirus.
But the researchers said that the findings should be transferable to the novel coronavirus.
“Different coronaviruses were analysed, and the results were all similar,” Steinmann said.
“Under the circumstances, the best approach was to publish these verified scientific facts in advance, in order to make all information available at a glance,” Steinmann added.
Since there is no specific therapy against the novel coronavirus, the prevention of infection is of particular importance in order to stem the epidemic.
Like all droplet infections, the virus can spread via hands and surfaces that are frequently touched.
“In hospitals, these can be door handles, for example, but also call buttons, bedside tables, bed frames and other objects in the direct vicinity of patients, which are often made of metal or plastic,” Kampf said.
Tests with various disinfection solutions showed that agents based on ethanol, hydrogen peroxide or sodium hypochlorite are effective against coronaviruses.
If these agents are applied in appropriate concentrations, they reduce the number of infectious coronaviruses by four so-called log steps within one minute: this means, for example, from one million to only 100 pathogenic particles.
If preparations based on other active ingredients are used, the product should be proven to be at least effective against enveloped viruses, said the study.
“As a rule, this is sufficient to significantly reduce the risk of infection,” Kampf said.