It seems the coronavirus causes a secondary contagion: Fear. Just ask anyone trying to buy hand sanitizer or toilet paper at their local supermarket.
In part, the angst stems from the fact virtually every surface you touch – office phone, cell phone, keyboard, mouse, faucet, door handle, cabinet drawer you name it – could harbor the SARS-COV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 disease.
Touch one contaminated surface and the next time you touch your eyes, nose, or mouth, you could infect yourself with a disease your body might not be prepared to combat.
Several factors determine how long the virus can survive outside the body. But it is clear the surface being touched is critical.
According to a recent study published at MedRxIV.org, the novel coronavirus can survive up to 4 hours on copper. That might sound like a long time, but it is nothing compared to viral longevity on cardboard. There, it remain viable up to 24 hours.
The virus feels even more at home on plastic and stainless steel, two surfaces many consumers consider easy to clean.
The coronavirus can live 2 to 3 days on those surfaces. In theory, that means you could contact a door knob an infected person touched 3 days ago, and still transfer the virus to your own body.
Another study concluded the virus can survive even longer, up to 9 days on some surfaces. That helps explain the continual advice from health officials that people need to practice social distancing, and wash their hands as often as possible.
Health officials know it is dangerous to come in contact with contaminated surfaces. That is why the CDC issues guidance on how to clean and disinfect them, especially for those self-quarantining at home.
Newsmax examined the most dangerous coronavirus breeding grounds. Here are 12 you would be wise to avoid at all cost:
1. Dollar Bills – Uncle Sam will not like this one: Research has shown pathogens can hide in the textured surface of paper money for days. There has not been a confirmed case of coronavirus caused by a contaminated dollar bill. But the World Health Organization spokesman recently told The Telegraph, "We know that money changes hands frequently and can pick up all sorts of bacteria and viruses and things like that. We would advise people to wash their hands after handling banknotes, and avoid touching their face." WHO later issued a clarificationit has not issued coronavirus-specific guidance on handling paper currency. A 2002 Southern Medical Journal Study found 94% of bills tested showed signs of pathogenic contamination. That suggests it would be a good idea to pay with plastic, or even better, use "contactless payments" like PayPal or Apple Pay.
2. Elevator Buttons – One of the biggest danger zones is the plastic button you push to whisk you to your floor. The hard plastic these buttons are made of can maintain active coronavirus cells for up to 48 hours. Medical officials urge people to use a knuckle, rather than a fingertip, to hit the call button or to designate a floor. So think twice before you start punching buttons.
3. Bathroom Shower Curtains – These are so dirty you will want to take a shower after touching them, a quandary in itself. A SafeHome.org study found the bacteria concentrations on shower curtains are higher than on toilet seats. The study detected 16.2 million "colony-forming units" of bacteria on shower curtains, and another 15.9 million on shower floors. Toilet seats, by comparison, harbored a mere 235,000 colonies.
4. Stainless Steel Countertops: Steel counters in public places look clean, but look out! Unless a steel surface is being hit with a powerful disinfectant several times a day, there is a real chance a virus or other pathogen is lurking there. Researchers believe the coronavirus can live on a steel surface for up to three days. Suggestion: Take your own disinfectant wipes, and possibly gloves, and use them if you have to come in contact with steel.
5. Sinks: Sinks seem innocuous because they are places where dishes, cups and eating utensils are placed to be properly washed. But often, dirty dishes are stacked in the sink for hours before they are washed. Anybody touching contaminated dishes or areas of the sink they have been in contact with could be exposed to the virus.
6. Door Knobs: This sounds like a no-brainer, but door knobs used by hundreds of people a day are easy to forget about when you are in a hurry to get somewhere. Always carry a clean tissue to use on doors, and make sure you discard it immediately. In your home, disinfect those door knobs religiously.
7. Landline Telephones: It might be true that landlines are so yesterday — but they are still very much in use in many highly travelled places, such as hotel lobbies and customer service counters. If you have to use one, wipe it off with disinfectant – especially if it is located in a public place. Remember, if you do not, the next call you place might be to your doctor.
8. Office Supplies: Just because you like your co-workers, does not mean you should take precautions. The buttons on your office coffee machine photocopier and water cooler, and handle on your company's staff refrigerator could easily host the coronavirus. When you enter an office space, look for what researchers call the "high-touch areas." Among them: The light switch, the door handle, the water cooler, the buttons on the printer, and so forth. You cannot live in fear that everything you touch might send you to the ER. But it is a good idea to use common sense, and avoid touching the things everyone else is – or at least, to wash your hands or douse them in hand sanitizer as soon as possible afterward.
9. Kitchen Sponges: We tend to think of them as safe, because we use them to clean other surfaces, such as dirty pots and pans. But it turns out that porous surface that is constantly moist is a hotbed for microscopic organisms. In fact, a 2017 German study by Furtwangen University concluded 362 different bacterial species nestled comfortably among the 14 different sponges that were inspected. Indeed, there were 54 billion organisms per square centimeter of sponge.
10. Cardboard Boxes: While cardboard seems like one of the least suspect of surfaces, its porous nature makes it a prime candidate to host the virus. According to scientists, the coronavirus can live on cardboard for up to 24 hours. In the age of same-day and overnight delivery, more and more workers have jobs that involve handling packages, if only in order to open them. Use gloves and hand sanitizer whenever you can, and do not assume good old reliable cardboard can be trusted. It cannot.
11. Toilets: You normally take extra precautions when using public restroom facilities. But it is good to be extra cautious while the coronavirus remains a threat. Use clean paper towels or disinfectant to wipe off all surfaces you may tough, then scrub your hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds. Try to use something besides your hands to operate flush handles, deadbolts, and water faucets. If you have to flick on a light switch when you come in, use a tissue or a bareknuckle if you have to – depending on how often these are disinfected, they can collect a lot of germs. Soap up your hands and wash them for at least 20 seconds, and use a paper towel to open the door on your way out – no point in doing all that cleaning if you are just going to turn around and grab a dirty door knob.
12. Coins: No, coins do not harbor as many pathogens as paper money, but they are still nothing to sneeze at. Studies suggest metal money can carry the coronavirus germs for over four hours – especially copper. Most of your change probably comes from retail establishments, like drive-through windows. Who knows where that money came from? The bottom line: The next time someone offers you a penny for your thoughts, you might want to settle for a friendly fist-bump instead.
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