The NIH scientists, from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases' Montana facility at Rocky Mountain Laboratories, compared how environment affects SARS-CoV-2 and SARS-CoV-1, the virus that causes SARS.
According to the researchers, the study information was widely shared during the past two weeks after the researchers placed the contents on a preprint server to quickly share their data with colleagues.
After performing several tests, scientists found that the RBD part of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein was extremely effective at latching itself onto the outside molecule part of human cells called ACE2, which is a receptor that regulates blood pressure. It's detectable in or on aerosols for up to 3 hours, copper for up to 4 hours, cardboard for up to 24 hours, and plastic and stainless steel for up to 2 to 3 days. The scientists then investigated how long the virus remained infectious on these surfaces. "This indicates that differences in the epidemiologic characteristics of these viruses probably arise from other factors, including high viral loads in the upper respiratory tract and the potential for persons infected with SARS-CoV-2 to shed and transmit the virus while asymptomatic". SARS-CoV-1 was stopped by intensive contact tracing and case isolation measures. In the stability study the two viruses behaved similarly, which unfortunately fails to explain why COVID-19 has become a much larger outbreak.
Emerging evidence from the scientists suggested that people infected with COVID-19 might be spreading the virus without knowing it, or prior to recognising symptoms.
The measures used to successfully control SARS-CoV-1 will have a tougher time against SARS-CoV-2, the NIH pointed out in a press release.
"In contrast to SARS-CoV-1, most secondary cases of virus transmission of SARS-CoV-2 appear to be occurring in community settings rather than healthcare settings", the NIH says.
They added however that healthcare settings are also vulnerable to the spread of the virus and the stability of COVID-19 in aerosols and on surfaces likely contributes to the transmission of the virus in healthcare settings.
Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
Stay home when you are sick.
Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.