The new coronavirus can linger on human skin much longer than flu viruses can, according to a new study from researchers in Japan.
SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, remained viable on samples of human skin for about 9 hours, according to the study. In contrast, a strain of the influenza A virus (IAV) remained viable on human skin for about 2 hours.
Fortunately, both viruses on skin were rapidly inactivated with hand sanitizer.
The findings underscore the importance of washing your hands or using sanitizer to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“This study shows that SARS-CoV-2 may have a higher risk of contact transmission [i.e. transmission from direct contact] than IAV because the first is much more stable on human skin [than the latter]” the authors wrote in their paper, which was published online Oct. 3 in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases. “These findings support the hypothesis that proper hand hygiene is important for the prevention of the spread of SARS-CoV-2.”
Survival on skin
Earlier in the pandemic, researchers in the U.S. analyzed how long SARS-CoV-2 could last on surfaces and found it remained viable on copper surfaces for up to 4 hours, on cardboard for up to 24 hours and on plastic and stainless steel for up to 72 hours, Live Science previously reported. However, for ethical reasons, examining how long the virus can last on human skin is more complicated — you can’t just put samples of a potentially lethal virus on people’s hands.