By now, scientists have done plenty of research on how long the coronavirus can live on different types of surfaces. But that changed somewhat after it became clear that the virus is mostly spread through droplets from person-to-person contact. While the focus of preventing infection shifted from hand-washing to wearing a mask and social distancing, medical experts have never stopped reminding the public to wash their hands as often as possible to keep themselves safe and healthy. And according to new research, that's definitely a good thing, since the evidence shows that the coronavirus can live on human skin for over nine hours, up to four and a half times longer than the flu. Before you read on, if you want to make sure you can tell COVID from the flu, know that There's an 80 Percent Chance You Have COVID If You Have This Symptom.
A Japanese study, which was published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases on Oct. 3, set out to determine how long the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) could survive on different surfaces such as stainless steel, glass, plastic, and human skin compared to a common strain of the flu, influenza A virus. The researchers found that the novel coronavirus remains active for longer on all surfaces, including human skin. In comparison to the more than nine hours COVID can live on your epidermis, the flu virus only survives for 1.8 hours.
Even on non-human surfaces, the results also showed that the coronavirus lasted much longer than the flu, surviving for about an average of 11 hours to the flu's much shorter span of just over an hour and a half.
The one thing they shared in common? Both the flu and the coronavirus were inactivated in just 15 seconds when an ethanol-based sanitizer was used.
The study's authors conclude that the long survival time of the novel coronavirus could result in "accelerating the pandemic." They point out that the findings help prove the importance of the advice that "proper hand hygiene is important to prevent the spread of SARS-CoV-2 infections."
While medical experts still emphasize that you are far more likely to catch COVID from exhaled droplets carrying the virus, the new information also comes just as flu season is beginning in the U.S., with top advisors from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warning that an overlap of the two viruses could have catastrophic consequences on an already strained hospital system. However, there may be one very thin silver lining to the current coronavirus pandemic. The CDC recently reported that there has been a drastic drop in flu cases globally, most likely thanks to the health practices of regular hand washing and the use of face coverings people have adopted due to COVID.
Still, top health officials are urging the public to stay vigilant and continue to follow safety protocols—and to make sure to get their flu shots. And for more on keeping your hands—and therefore, your eyes, nose, and mouth–COVID-free, check out 15 Things the CDC Says You Shouldn't Be Touching With Unwashed Hands.