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The coronavirus 'does not spread easily' from touching surfaces or objects, CDC says

A person cleaning a doorknob.
(Image: © Shutterstock)

Editor's Note: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a statement on Friday (May 22) saying this updated wording was done in an attempt to clarify spread beyond person-to-person. "This change was intended to make it easier to read, and was not a result of any new science," the agency wrote in the statement. "After media reports appeared that suggested a change in CDC’s view on transmissibility, it became clear that these edits were confusing. Therefore, we have once again edited the page to provide clarity." The subhead now reads: "The virus may be spread in other ways." 

Though the primary way the virus spreads is through close contact from person-to-person, it's possible to be infected from touching a surface or object that has the coronavirus on it and then touching the mouth, nose or possibly eyes, they wrote in the statement. "But this isn’t thought to be the main way the virus spreads."

The new coronavirus "does not spread easily" from touching surfaces or objects, according to updated wording on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) website.

This change was made on May 11 without an announcement from the organization, according to NBC News. The change, which was made during an internal review of their website, was meant to "clarify other types of spread beyond person to person," CDC spokesperson Kristen Nordlund told NBC News. 

But there doesn't appear to be any new data on how infectious viral particles are on surfaces, according to NBC News. 

Related: 13 coronavirus myths busted by science 

Previous research published on March 17 in The New England Journal of Medicine had found that the coronavirus could be viable in the air for up to 3 hours, on copper for up to 4 hours, on cardboard up to 24 hours and on plastic and stainless steel up to 72 hours. But it's still unclear how long SARS-CoV-2 can linger on surfaces and how infectious those surfaces could be, Live Science previously reported.

The coronavirus spreads "very easily and sustainably between people," and that is the main route of transmission, the CDC says on their website. However, "the virus does not spread easily in other ways," their new sub-headline reads (The old sub-headline read "Spread from contact with contaminated surfaces or objects").

Though it's "possible" that COVID-19 spreads in other ways besides person-to-person contact, including from touching surfaces or objects and then touching the mouth, nose or eyes or between animals and people, these are not thought to the main routes of transmission, the agency wrote. 

Still, as all the states across the U.S. have at least partially reopened, people are wary of what sort of precautions they should be taking. For example, people are afraid to handle cash, and many businesses have now turned to "touchless" payments, according to The Los Angeles Times

"A persistent problem in this pandemic has been lack of clear messaging from governmental leadership, and this is another unfortunate example of that trend," Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health told The Washington Post. "It could even have a detrimental effect on hand hygiene and encourage complacency about physical distancing or other measures."

The CDC has published a set of guidelines on how to clean and disinfect surfaces. "Current evidence suggests that SARS-CoV-2 may remain viable for hours to days on surfaces made from a variety of materials," the agency still says in their guidelines. "Cleaning of visibly dirty surfaces followed by disinfection is a best practice measure for prevention of COVID-19 and other viral respiratory illnesses in households and community settings."

The best way to protect yourself from COVID-19 is to maintain good social distance (about 6 feet), wash your hands often with soap and water and routinely clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces, according to the CDC.

Originally published on Live Science.

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  • cdpage
    How is it possible after months of saying the same thing over and over "surface contact info is not yet conclusive and more studies need to be done"

    reminds me of an old story,
    This is a story about four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody and Nobody. There was an important job to be done and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it. Somebody got angry about that, because it was Everybody’s job. Everybody thought Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it. It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have.

    Is ANYBODY actually trying to find this out? Who?
    Or are are we all just assuming somebody is and that it'll never actually be studied further?
    Reply
  • DanielMoragne
    cdpage said:
    How is it possible after months of saying the same thing over and over "surface contact info is not yet conclusive and more studies need to be done"

    reminds me of an old story,
    This is a story about four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody and Nobody. There was an important job to be done and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it. Somebody got angry about that, because it was Everybody’s job. Everybody thought Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it. It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have.

    Is ANYBODY actually trying to find this out? Who?
    Or are are we all just assuming somebody is and that it'll never actually be studied further?
    It is much easier to trace from whom you caught an infection than determine the actual mechanism of the virus transmission. Think for a minute, about the last time you were ill from an infection. Do you know how you caught it? By speaking with friends and co-workers you encountered shortly before you became ill, you might be able to figure out (if they also were or became ill around the same time), who passed it on to you. But how? Did you shake hands? Did you speak to each other? Did the other person cough or sneeze? Maybe all three things occurred. Which was the way the virus was transmitted to you?

    What has been determined is that the virus which causes Covid-19, can remain viable on different surfaces for up to several days. This means that viral samples taken from these surfaces can invade and infect cells in the lab. But that is a far cry from saying that if you touch these surfaces, you will be infected. The body has many defenses, which help shield you from infection, so, it may not be easy to pick up an infection by this route.

    The only way to be sure that someone was infected in this manner, would be to shield them from direct contact from anyone who may be harboring the virus, and only expose them to viral contaminated surfaces. If they become infected, then it had to be by picking it up from surfaces. But that still wouldn't let you know how easy it is to contract it by this means - only that it is possible.

    Case studies have shown that most cases of infection can be traced to actual close contact with other individuals. Of course, this doesn't rule out the possibility that you got infected from touching a surface they contaminated while the two of you were in close proximity, but the fact that you were actually present together before you were infected indicates that there was a more direct route of transmission.

    So, although there are many people investigating these issues, finding hard evidence of not just the means of possible transmission, but the relative ease of transmission among the various possible routes, will take some time, and a lot of carefully designed studies. We have only known of the possibility of human infection with this novel coronavirus for about 6 months. Give the investigators time to get the hard numbers, and until then, act prudently with the discoveries which have already been made.
    Reply
  • All4One
    I've always trusted the CDC... but it seems that trump got his lying hands on them and now I'm not sure we can trust them at all (Environmental Protection Agency... LOL).
    Trump politicizes everything he touches and tends to fire anyone who doesn't agree with his own (or Fox Entertainments) "thoughts" on a subject. So can we trust them??

    What do you think Live Science? What do the rest of the worlds scientist say? We need the truth from actually scientist... you know, the ones who have no other agenda or child king that they must keep happy or lose their job.
    Reply
  • DanielMoragne
    All4One said:
    I've always trusted the CDC... but it seems that trump got his lying hands on them and now I'm not sure we can trust them at all (Environmental Protection Agency... LOL).
    Trump politicizes everything he touches and tends to fire anyone who doesn't agree with his own (or Fox Entertainments) "thoughts" on a subject. So can we trust them??

    What do you think Live Science? What do the rest of the worlds scientist say? We need the truth from actually scientist... you know, the ones who have no other agenda or child king that they must keep happy or lose their job.
    Yes, finding truth in all the hype (from both sides) is quite difficult. And pulling your "facts" from just the side you find most agreement with, limits your reach, and puts you in the same trap of the many of the proponents and followers on "the other side". And since none of us can be experts in all subjects, we do need to figure out how to get information we can trust. So, what do you do?

    One thing you can do is consider the source - does it appear to take a balanced approach, or is it all one-sided. In other words, what is the agenda. Another consideration - is the information coming straight from the source, or is it being reported, out of context (and possibly twisted), to fit the aims of the reporter? Then too, there is the point you mentioned in your question - what do OTHER expert sources have to say in this regard - is it the same, or something different?

    I believe that using the above principles, you can begin to find ways to separate truth from spin, and also discover sources which don't necessarily have a "stake in the game." But even at this point, don't blindly accept something you see or hear, even from previously "neutral" sources. Sometimes even with the best intentions, and real efforts to provide balanced reporting, your previously "neutral" sources can get it wrong.

    Yes, finding the truth can be quite difficult, but that work is part of our duty to be informed citizens. You are to be commended for taking part in this struggle.
    Reply
  • All4One
    DanielMoragne said:
    Yes, finding truth in all the hype (from both sides) is quite difficult. And pulling your "facts" from just the side you find most agreement with, limits your reach, and puts you in the same trap of the many of the proponents and followers on "the other side". And since none of us can be experts in all subjects, we do need to figure out how to get information we can trust. So, what do you do?

    One thing you can do is consider the source - does it appear to take a balanced approach, or is it all one-sided. In other words, what is the agenda. Another consideration - is the information coming straight from the source, or is it being reported, out of context (and possibly twisted), to fit the aims of the reporter? Then too, there is the point you mentioned in your question - what do OTHER expert sources have to say in this regard - is it the same, or something different?

    I believe that using the above principles, you can begin to find ways to separate truth from spin, and also discover sources which don't necessarily have a "stake in the game." But even at this point, don't blindly accept something you see or hear, even from previously "neutral" sources. Sometimes even with the best intentions, and real efforts to provide balanced reporting, your previously "neutral" sources can get it wrong.

    Yes, finding the truth can be quite difficult, but that work is part of our duty to be informed citizens. You are to be commended for taking part in this struggle.

    Well Said Daniel!
    Hoping LiveScience can tell us what the rest of the worlds scientist agree upon, since ours seems to be being compromised. I've always trusted the US scientist who've dedicated their lives to improving our knowledge... but that's becoming harder and harder as our government fires the ones who won't lie.

    Funny... remember when our scientist used to just quit. Under Bush when he dismissed the report on global warming, pulled us out of the Kyoto Protocol and just told us what he wanted us to hear instead. We had spent close to a billion dollars on climate science for that report.. Bush still owes the taxpayers back that billion he stole from us and our grandchildren!!!! At that point many of our leading climate scientist just quit and went to countries who still had some honor. Now they are just fired late on a Friday. Sad where we are headed.
    Pray for our country and our planet.
    Reply
  • cdpage
    thank you for the thorough reply. I completely agree, I just find it odd that there is no more focus into the fragility of virus. We're just going with what "seems" to be working. Soap, Sanitizer, scrubbing.

    the "Scrubbing" is one thing i recall hearing more than once before and I suppose that is where my point of contention is.

    It sounded like the virus would also probably die, just from the rubbing of ones hands for 20 seconds. No don't get me wrong, I'm certain they were not trying to say that you don't need soap... however it sounds as though if a virus were on our hands or a surface if we didn't use say a strong enough disinfectant the scrubbing action alone might be enough.

    Are we over washing?

    To counter my own argument, when we talk about surfaces it always sounds like "preliminary tests" found that it lasts a few hours to 24hours on paper and up to 72 on plastic and metal.
    While as you say, it is most likely (probably in the upper 90%) close contact with infected ppl that is causing transmissions, we might say we need to focus more on the tracing of the contact path. But the lab that can answer the questions about how long they last on surfaces are not the same ppl that would be tracking the origins.

    What I am getting at here is could it last longer then previously stated.

    Another thing that dropped off the radar was temps and humidity. Is a Greenhouse a bad place to go?
    Warm, moist, Is it protected from certain UV light in there?

    We do need to focus on the community tracing YES
    but after 2 months of Studies we are still hearing Preliminary on the secondary issue... the stuff we touch.
    Reply