By just touching a contaminated surface, you won’t get the Coronavirus Disease 2019, or COVID-19. But health officials and infectious disease experts stress that if you touch your mouth, nose, or eyes after touching a contaminated surface, then you can transfer the virus to these sensitive spots. And that allows the virus to enter the body.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says most coronavirus infections occur when people are directly exposed to droplets in coughs or sneezes. But there is uncertainty as to how long the virus can survive on surfaces.
The CDC states: “Current evidence suggests that novel coronavirus may remain viable for hours to days on surfaces made from a variety of materials.” So, public health officials add that the “cleaning of visibly dirty surfaces followed by disinfection” is necessary for complete prevention of COVID-19 and other viral respiratory illnesses in households and community settings.
Objects that people frequently touch with their bare hands include countertops, digital screens that include ATMs, tablets and smartphones, tables, doorknobs, handrails, and elevator buttons.
Some Practical Tips to Stay Safe from Surfaces
Practice good hand hygiene. (washing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds) and minimize how often you touch your face. If you use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer (at least 60 percent alcohol), make sure to rub it in until your hands are completely dry.
Avoid touching surfaces with fingertips. Your fingertips are most likely to transmit a virus, because that’s how people touch nose, mouth or the eyes. Use objects if possible or clean paper towels. Or use your knuckle to press an elevator button. Open doors with an elbow or the back of a hand is another suggestion from infectious disease experts.
Carry a pack of single-use tissues. You can use these for grabbing door knobs or handrails.
Clean your hands before touching your smartphone. Your phone is not public surface, and most people don’t lend them to other. But smartphones can carry bacteria and viruses. Make sure to wipe them clean.
Here’s what the CDC says about cleaning and disinfecting surfaces:
- Wear disposable gloves when cleaning and disinfecting surfaces. Gloves should be discarded after each cleaning. If reusable gloves are used, those gloves should be dedicated for cleaning and disinfection of surfaces for COVID-19 and should not be used for other purposes.
- Consult the manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning and disinfection products used. Clean hands immediately after gloves are removed.
- If surfaces are dirty, they should be cleaned using a detergent or soap and water prior to disinfection.
- For disinfection, diluted household bleach solutions, alcohol solutions with at least 70 percent alcohol, and most common EPA-registered household disinfectants should be effective.