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article imageOp-Ed: Big issue - COVID survival for a month on surfaces is grim news

By Paul Wallis     Oct 11, 2020 in Science
Sydney - In a not-very-welcome finding, Australian CSIRO researchers have discovered that the virus can survive for weeks on surfaces. That’s much longer than influenza. That's not good news for transmission.
These findings have buried an urban myth about the virus in the process. The previous “wisdom” was that it only lasted a few hours. It also survives on money, notably paper banknotes. That’s a very high volume range of possible transmission.
CSIRO tested SARS-CoV-2 (the new scientific name of the virus) to explore survival rates on different common surfaces. Additional information shows that the presence of proteins and other materials enhances survivability. It’s unclear whether this is a thermal protective issue or simply a better environment for the virus.
What’s so important about this? Pretty much everything.
The longer survivability of the virus is a critical issue:
• Longer term survival means the virus remains infectious for longer in “neutral” transmission environments than previously known.
• The virus may be able to transmit from this passive state by contact.
• Local transmissions may include this type of transmission, rather than the more obvious method of person-to-person transmission.
• The longevity of the virus is a benchmark for its infectious capabilities.
• Environmental transmission makes tracing sources of infection harder, at best able to find a location.
Even a tough virus like influenza has a relatively short shelf life. The longevity of SARS-CoV-2 makes it a “persistent agent”, to use military biowarfare terminology. A contaminated area or object may be a source for new infections or multiple infections. Viruses could also rise as “dust”, to be inhaled from these surfaces as people pass by.
The longer life of the virus in these environments also means decontamination of spaces and materials will need to be upgunned. Irradiation with UVC is one option, hopefully meaning public spaces can be protected from passing contaminants. (Why the hell isn't this no-brainer option getting more attention?) Otherwise, a near-impossible, forensic, level of decontamination would be required, likely to be expensive and ineffective.
Watch this space. How the virus survives is critical to beating it. The news won’t get dull.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
More about CSIRO COVID, SARS Cov2, viral longevity transmission, virus on money, UVC covid irradiation
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