CORONAVIRUS can spread through hospital wards in ten hours and lingers for at least five days, a study has found.
Researchers from University College London and Great Ormond Street Hospital simulated how SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, may spread across surfaces in a hospital.
Read our coronavirus live blog for the latest news & updatesResearchers say coronavirus can spread through hospital wards in ten hours and lingers for at least five days[/caption]
And they discovered that the deadly disease can rapidly spread across hospital wards – including bed rails, door handles, arm rests in waiting rooms and children's toys and books.
Instead of using the SARS-CoV-2 virus, the researchers used a section of DNA from a plant-infecting virus, which cannot infect humans.
They added this to water in a similar concentration to copies of the genetic material in Covid-19 found in samples from infected patients.
The researchers then left this water containing this DNA on the hand rail of a hospital bed in an isolation room, which is used for higher-risk or infected patients.
Over the following five days, they sampled 44 sites across a hospital ward.
After ten hours the virus was detected in 41 per cent of samples taken across the hospital ward, including bed rails and children's toys and books in a play area.
After three days this had risen to 59 per cent of sites and the virus was still present after five days, by which time it was detected at 41 per cent of sites.
Lena Ciric of UCL, a senior author on the study, said: “Our study shows the important role that surfaces play in the transmission of a virus and how critical it is to adhere to good hand hygiene and cleaning.
A person with SARS-CoV-2 will shed the virus on more than one site, through coughing, sneezing and touching surfacesProfessor Lena Ciric
“Our surrogate was inoculated once to a single site, and was spread through the touching of surfaces by staff, patients and visitors.
“A person with SARS-CoV-2, though, will shed the virus on more than one site, through coughing, sneezing and touching surfaces.”
The highest proportion of sites that tested positive for the surrogate came from the immediate bedspace area – including a nearby room with several other beds – and clinical areas such as treatment rooms.
On day three, 86 per cent of sampled sites in clinical areas tested positive, while on day four, 60 per cent of sampled sites in the immediate bedspace area tested positive.
Co-author Dr Elaine Cloutman-Green, Lead Healthcare Scientist at GOSH, said the study reiterated the importance of hand washing.
She said: “People can become infected with Covid-19 through respiratory droplets produced during coughing or sneezing.
“Equally, if these droplets land on a surface, a person may become infected after coming into contact with the surface and then touching their eyes, nose or mouth.
This is a reminder that you can help stop its spread through strict hand hygiene, cleaning of surfaces, and proper use of PPEDr Elaine Cloutman-GreenLead Healthcare Scientist at GOSH
“Like SARS-CoV-2, the surrogate we used for the study could be removed with a disinfectant wipe or by washing hands with soap and water.
“Cleaning and handwashing represent our first line of defense against the virus and this study is a significant reminder that healthcare workers and all visitors to a clinical setting can help stop its spread through strict hand hygiene, cleaning of surfaces, and proper use of personal protective equipment (PPE).”
The researchers said that Covid-19, which is likely to be spread within bodily fluids when a patient coughs or sneezes, would be expected to spread faster than the virus DNA in water used in the study as sticky fluids such as mucus can spread more easily.
The researchers admitted that their study, published as a letter in the Journal of Hospital Infection, did not determine how likely it was that someone would be infected.
Health bosses say the best way to protect yourself from Covid-19 is still washing your hands with soap and water for the time it takes to sing Happy Birthday twice.
Happy Birthday takes about 20 seconds to sing twice and is said to be the perfect number to clean your hands to thoroughly.
If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitiser that contains at least 60 per cent alcohol.
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The Government says to keep your distance from people outside your household, recognising this will not always be possible.
The risk of infection increases the closer you are to another person with the virus and the amount of time you spend in close contact: you are very unlikely to be infected if you walk past another person in the street.
Public Health England recommends trying to keep 2m away from people as a precaution.