- Face masks are recommended during the new coronavirus health crisis, whether homemade or disposable. Several studies have shown that the virus can travel through the air with ease, and face masks can reduce the risk of transmission.
- But the COVID-19 virus can survive on surfaces, including the outer and inner sides of face masks.
- The new data shows that the virus can survive up to 7 days in face masks, so reusable masks should be cleaned after each use and disposable masks should be thrown away.
The new coronavirus can live on a variety of surfaces from a few hours to several days, as reinforced by a new study a few weeks ago. That is why we have all trained ourselves to treat surfaces as potential contaminants and why we have been cleaning counters, door handles, and basically anything that may contain traces of the virus more often than ever before. That's also why we've been more apprehensive about the packages the delivery person leaves, and why we've been cleaning certain products purchased at supermarkets and elsewhere. A few days ago, the CDC updated one of its COVID-19 pages to make it clear that the new coronavirus is primarily spread from person to person, and that surface transmission is less likely. That doesn't change the fact that it can happen and that the virus can survive on some surfaces for long periods.
A new report from an Italian health authority explains that SARS-CoV-2 can survive inside face masks for 4 days, which is an important reminder that masks must be handled with care, especially if you are handling them. for a loved one who is infected.
The Italian Superior Institute of Health (ISS) published new guidelines on "cleaning and disinfection of non-sanitary environments during the health emergency COVID-19: surfaces, interior environments and clothing,quot;, where it addresses various types of surfaces and products, including masks as well as cleaning procedures. The ISS says that SARS-CoV-2 particles have been detected on the inside of the mask up to 4 days after wearing a mask and up to 7 days on the outside. A separate study a few weeks ago also explained that the new coronavirus can survive up to 7 days on the surface of face masks.
“The data reported is the result of the evidence from the scientific literature, but should be rejected based on environmental situations. For example, coronaviruses resist better at low temperatures and in humid environments, "said ISS epidemiologist Paolo D & # 39; Ancona, by Huffington Post Italy. The expert warned that the mere presence of the virus does not mean that it is still viable and that it can infect others, but caution is always recommended when handling the masks.
"Just because the particles survive doesn't mean they spread the disease: if there are fewer viral particles, the infectious load is less," D’Ancona said. However, he noted that the minimum amount of coronavirus needed to infect an individual is still unknown. Individuals' immune responses also play a role in establishing that minimal viral load, he added.
Several studies were able to demonstrate that traces of the coronavirus can be found on surfaces for days after contamination. But they could not say whether the virus particles would remain infectious. The virus could be dead but still detectable in tests, as was the case in a CDC study that showed that SARS-CoV-2 was present on cruise ships 17 days after ships were evacuated. Even if you touch the virus, it still has to reach your mouth, nose, or eyes to infect it. We don't have all the answers we need, so extra care is required when handling potentially contaminated objects, particularly face masks.
"Reusable masks should be used only once and then immediately placed in the washing machine, without resting them on the furniture," said the Italian health expert. "Disposables should be thrown away unsorted immediately after use." D’Ancona added that people should only touch the elastic ties of the masks, regardless of the type they are. People should also wash their hands before handling the loops and after removing the mask. Finally, face masks should be thrown in the trash instead of on the ground to minimize the impact on the environment.
This type of information should be of particular interest to those of you caring for a COVID-19 patient in your home, or to family members who may be caring for you. If you still can't find face masks in stores (although there are plenty in stock right now on Amazon), you can always make your own, but the same cleaning rules should apply.