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COVID Lives on Your Skin a Long Time, Study Finds

More evidence why good hand hygiene is so important.
woman worrying about her skin

The coronavirus can last up to nine hours on human skin, a new study has found. 

According to the research published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, Japanese researchers tested how long SARS-CoV-2 (the full name of the novel coronavirus) and the influenza A virus could last on skin. They found the flu virus dissipated in two hours, but the coronavirus remained for nine hours. When mixed with respiratory secretions (a.k.a. mucus), the coronavirus lasted even longer: up to 11 hours. Read on, and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus.

Increases the risk of transmission

A solution of 80 percent ethanol—a common ingredient in hand sanitizers—killed both viruses within 15 seconds. 

"The 9-hour survival of SARS-CoV-2 on human skin may increase the risk of contact transmission in comparison with influenza A virus, thus accelerating the pandemic," the researchers wrote. "Proper hand hygiene is important to prevent the spread of SARS-CoV-2 infections."

To avoid infecting any human volunteers, the scientists used cadaver skin in their study.

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Coronavirus can last even longer on other surfaces 

Earlier in the pandemic, researchers determined that the coronavirus can last on stainless steel for up to 72 hours, copper surfaces for up to four hours and on cardboard for up to 24 hours. 

Experts say frequent handwashing is key to slowing the spread of coronavirus. Yet several months into the pandemic, a new CDC report released this month found that one in four Americans don't remember to wash their hands when they should, such as when experiencing respiratory symptoms, after using the restroom or before eating. 

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What is good hand hygiene?

To inactivate the coronavirus on your hands, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends frequently washing them with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or using a hand sanitizer that contains 60% to 90% alcohol. When applying hand sanitizer, the agency recommends rubbing it over all surfaces of hands, until they're dry.

Aside from frequent handwashing, do everything you can to prevent getting—and spreading—COVID-19 in the first place: Wear a face mask, get tested if you think you have coronavirus, avoid crowds (and bars, and house parties), practice social distancing, disinfect frequently touched surfaces, and to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.