The coronavirus can survive on surfaces for at least 17 days, according to a study released Monday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The new data came from a study of the COVID-19 outbreaks on the Diamond Princess ship off the coast of Japan and the Grand Princess ship off the coast of California.
Passengers and crew members on both ships were quarantined on board after previously asymptomatic guests tested positive for the coronavirus once they landed onshore.
Researchers found traces of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, “on a variety of surfaces in cabins of both symptomatic and asymptomatic infected passengers up to 17 days after cabins were vacated on the Diamond Princess but before disinfection procedures had been conducted.”
The data couldn’t confirm if the virus was transmitted from the contaminated surfaces, and the CDC called for further studies of the transmission of the disease aboard cruise ships.
“COVID-19 on cruise ships poses a risk for rapid spread of disease, causing outbreaks in a vulnerable population, and aggressive efforts are required to contain spread,” the CDC wrote.
Previous research from the National Institutes of Health, CDC, UCLA and Princeton University had found that the coronavirus can live for up to three days on plastic and stainless steel, with the amount of the virus left on the surfaces decreasing over time.
“It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads,” the federal agency says.
At the time of the Diamond Princess outbreak in February, it was the largest cluster of confirmed COVID-19 cases outside of mainland China.
The Diamond Princess and Grand Princess had 800 total COVID-19 cases, including 10 fatalities.
“Public health responses to COVID-19 outbreaks on cruise ships were aimed at limiting transmission among passengers and crew, preventing exportation of COVID-19 to other communities, and assuring the safety of travelers and responders,” the CDC wrote.
At the time of the outbreaks on the Diamond Princess and Grand Princess, authorities implemented aggressive efforts to contain transmission on board in order to prevent the virus from being spread when passengers were able to disembark.
Passengers on the Diamond Princess were quarantined in their cabins for 14 days before they disembarked.
After several days quarantined on the ship while it was docked in Oakland, passengers on the Grand Princess were transported to federal quarantine facilities to complete a 14-day quarantine period.
As of Tuesday morning, there have been more than 398,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins.
Of these cases, there have been 103,334 recoveries and 17,454 fatalities.
In the United States, there have been 46,805 cases and 593 fatalities.
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