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  • Coronavirus Survival vs Temperature

    Posted on March 30th, 2020 admin No comments

    Given that it’s -14C outside, I started to wonder about survival rates of the coronavirus vs temperature and relative humidity, particularly at sub-freezing temperatures. Because the virus is new, almost all the studies I would find were looking at “cousins” of the one that causes covid-19.

    Viruses can be transmitted via either airborne particles (close personal contact), or fomites (surfaces such as clothing, doorknobs, counters and the like)

    Survival as Airborne Particles

    • Survival characteristics of airborne human coronavirus 229E” showed that survival was lowest at room temp and high relative humidity (about 3 hours), yet greatest at refrigerator temp and high humidity (about 3.6 days). Oddly enough, the long-term survival of airborne virus was greatest at 50% RH for both temperatures. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2999318)

    Survival on Surfaces

    • Effects of air temperature and relative humidity on coronavirus survival on surfaces” used two non-covid-19 coronaviruses, again at room temperature (20C) and refrigerator temperature (4C) but also at high temperature (40C). The results showed that “At 4 degrees C, infectious virus persisted for as long as 28 days, and the lowest level of inactivation occurred at 20% RH. Inactivation was more rapid at 20 degrees C than at 4 degrees C at all humidity levels; the viruses persisted for 5 to 28 days, and the slowest inactivation occurred at low RH. Both viruses were inactivated more rapidly at 40 degrees C than at 20 degrees C.” In other words, the virus thrives best on surfaces inside your fridge and can last from a week to a month. Isn’t that nice to know. Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2863430/
    A coronavirus, with anatomy
    • The Effects of Temperature and Relative Humidity on the Viability of the SARS Coronavirus” from 2010 looked at survival of the virus on smooth surfaces. The study found that “The dried virus on smooth surfaces retained its viability for over 5 days at temperatures of 22–25°C and relative humidity of 40–50%, that is, typical air-conditioned environments. However, virus viability was rapidly lost…at higher temperatures and higher relative humidity (e.g., 38°C, and relative humidity of >95%). Source: https://www.hindawi.com/journals/av/2011/734690/
    • Persistence of coronaviruses on inanimate surfaces and their inactivation with biocidal agents” reviewed 22 studies on this topic. The authors conclude that, depending on the material and the conditions, “Human coronaviruses can remain infectious on inanimate surfaces at room temperature for up to 9 days. At a temperature of 30°C [86°F] or more, the duration of persistence is shorter. Veterinary coronaviruses have been shown to persist even longer for 28 d[ays].” When the scientists delved into the literature on the persistence of coronaviruses on different surfaces, the results were variable. For instance, the MERS virus persisted for 48 hours on a steel surface at 20°C (68°F). However, on a similar surface and at the same temperature, TGEV survived for up to 28 days. Similarly, two studies investigated the survival of two strains of SARS coronavirus on a paper surface. One survived 4–5 days, the other for just 3 hours. Source: https://www.journalofhospitalinfection.com/article/S0195-6701(20)30046-3/fulltext
    • An oft-quoted recent study, “Aerosol and Surface Stability of SARS-CoV-2 as Compared with SARS-CoV-1” found that the viruses were “more stable on plastic and stainless steel than on copper and cardboard, and viable virus was detected up to 72 hours after application.” The viruses lasted two or three days on plastic and steel, less than eight hours on copper and less than 24 hours on cardboard, all presumably at room temperature. Source: https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMc2004973

    Survival Below Freezing

    None of these studies have looked at below-freezing temperatures. I was able to find at least some additional information.

    • Dr. Mohamad Mooty, Department Chair, Infectious Diseases, Medical Subspecialty Institute, at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, has reported that “Research…has shown that, in general, coronaviruses are stable in freezing temperatures and have been shown to survive for up to two years at -20 degrees Celsius.” However, I was unable to obtain that research online. Source: https://english.alarabiya.net/en/features/2020/03/19/How-long-can-coronaviruses-survive-in-a-freezer-Up-to-two-years-warns-expert
    • Survival of human parainfluenza viruses in the South Polar environment” dealt with a different type of virus. The study found that three strains lasted between four and twelve days at room temp and seven to 17 days outside at -22C to -33C. From this it appears that those strains can last longer in frigid temps, but hardly the two years reported above by Dr. Mooty for coronavirus. Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC239486/
    • “Can deadly virus and microbes survive in the ice?” answers its own question and says, yes, “viruses and bacteria can survive in permafrost and in very old ice.” These viruses, up to 30,000 years old, are in some cases viable and capable of causing infections. Source: https://secretsoftheice.com/news/2017/03/09/virus-microbes-ice/

    Conclusions

    What research I was able to find suggested that viruses can actually survive slightly longer in colder temperatures, even well below freezing, than at room temperature. Cold weather gives us no protection.

    The most disturbing fact is that coronavirus can survive far longer in your refrigerator than in your living room. Ugh.

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