Preventing the spread of the Novel Coronavirus

Reducing the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes the disease COVID-19 has changed the everyday life of most people in the world today. Social distancing, a term most Americans had never heard of prior to February of 2020, is now used daily in the news and everyday conversation. As this is a Novel Virus or one that is new, scientists are working quickly to identify characteristics of the virus including how it is transmitted. Until thorough research has been performed, we are often relying on the research of similar better-known viruses.

It is known that the virus can be transmitted through respiratory droplets. This is when an infected person sneezes or coughs, releasing very small droplets that contain the disease. Other people that are within range (estimated 6 feet), can become infected when those droplets get into their mouth, nose, or eyes. To reduce exposure, one should stay more than 6 feet away from other people who could potentially carry the disease. In addition, the use of respirators like an N-95 face mask and eye protection is thought to prevent infection when in the presence of an individual with the virus. It is not yet known whether the virus can become aerosolized, where it becomes suspended in the air potentially for hours. There are currently conflicting data on whether this is possible with the COVID-19 Virus.

Another means of transmitting the disease is through contaminated surfaces. This is when a sick individual deposits droplets containing the disease by sneezing, coughing or by touching a surface with contaminated hands. Current evidence suggests that the novel coronavirus may remain viable on surfaces from hours to days. This is why it is essential to wash hands often to prevent contracting the virus or passing it on to others. There are many factors that play into the length of time a virus remains viable on a surface. Temperature, humidity, the amount of virus deposited, and the type of surface all have an effect on the viability of the virus. It is been shown that similar viruses can stay viable for over 9 days when in some human fluids. Below is a link with information on virus viability timeframe on different types of surfaces from The Journal of Hospital Infection:

Coronavirus Decontamination

One way to reduce the spread of the virus is through cleaning and disinfecting areas where a suspected or infected individual had been. It is imperative that those performing the cleaning have PPE or personal protective equipment. This includes a respirator, N-95 mask or better, nitrile or latex gloves, eye protection, and protective clothing, like a “Tyvek Suit”. Below is a link to information on worker safety as it relates to the virus:

Surfaces should be cleaned and disinfected using an EPA registered disinfectant that is designed for use against emerging viral pathogens including the Human Corona Virus (SARS-CoV-2). Below is a link to EPA list N of products that can be used:

It is important to understand contact times, or the time a surface needs to remain wet with a product to be effective. Some products have very low contact times, though these products can often leave harmful odors and gasses after the cleaning. It is important to select a product that is both effective and safe to use. High-touch surfaces like keyboards, doorknobs, tables, and toilets to name a few, should be cleaned free of visible dirt and then disinfected. Below are Cleaning and Disinfection recommendations from the CDC to deal with COVID-19.