From the WebMD Archives

October 9, 2020 -- Researchers in Japan have discovered the coronavirus can survive on human skin for up to nine hours, offering further proof that regular hand washing can curb the spread of the virus, according to a study published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.

Scientists from the Kyoto Prefectural University of Medicine compared the survival times of the coronavirus and influenza A (flu) virus.

Not wanting to endanger humans, they applied samples of the coronavirus and influenza virus to human skin collected from autopsy specimens collected no more than one day after death, the study said.

They found the coronavirus survived 9.04 hours on that skin and influenza A survived 1.82 hours.

“The 9-h survival of SARS-CoV-2 on human skin may increase the risk of contact transmission in comparison with IAV (influenza A), thus accelerating the pandemic. Proper hand hygiene is important to prevent the spread of SARS-CoV-2 infections,” the study said.

Researchers also mixed samples with mucus to mimic a sneeze or cough. The coronavirus lasted 11.09 hours, and influenza A lasted 1.69 hours, the study said. The mucus was obtained from three people with acute upper respiratory tract infections.

Both the COVID-19 virus and the influenza A virus were “completely inactivated” within 15 seconds of applying ethanol, the study said.

One limitation of the study, researchers said, is that only one strain of coronavirus and one strain of influenza were used.

The coronavirus is known to survive even longer on inanimate surfaces.

In March, the National Institutes of Health published a study saying that the virus can last up to four hours on copper, 24 hours on cardboard, and 72 hours on stainless steel.

In the air, the virus can last for about three hours, the NIH said.

Show Sources

Clinical Infectious Diseases. "Survival of SARS-CoV-2 and influenza virus on the human skin: Importance of hand hygiene in COVID-19."

NIH. "Aerosol and Surface Stability of SARS-CoV-2 as Compared with SARS-CoV-1."

© 2020 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved. View privacy policy and trust info