In Brief

Coronavirus can spread through hospital ward ‘in ten hours’

Researchers tracked how virus travelled more than 260ft from single spot in isolation room

Coronavirus can spread throughout a hospital ward from a single spot in just ten hours and then linger for at least five days, a new study shows.

Researchers from University College Hospital (UCL) and Great Ormond Street Hospital tested the potential spread of Covid-19 by leaving a millilitre of water containing a section of DNA from a non-contagious virus on a bed in an isolation room, used for high-risk or infected patients.

After ten hours, the virus was detected in 41% of samples taken across the hospital ward, “including bed rails, door handles, arm rests in a waiting room and children’s toys and books”, reports The Times.

And within five days, it could be detected on up to 86% of sites on the ward and had travelled more than 260ft (79 metres), The Telegraph says.

Study co-author Dr Lena Ciric, an environmental microbiologist at UCL, said the virus DNA - added to the water at a similar concentration to coronavirus DNA found in patient samples - was spread through “the touching of surfaces by staff, patients and visitors”. 

The findings show “the important role that surfaces play in the transmission of a virus and how critical it is to adhere to good hygiene and cleaning”, she added, pointing out a person infected with Covid-19 may also spread the infection by coughing and sneezing.    

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The research, outlined in a newly published paper in the Journal of Hospital Infection, did not determine how likely it was that someone would be infected from the amount of the viral DNA found on the surfaces.

A previous study published in the New England Medical Journal that investigated how long Covid-19 could survive on various services found that the virus could still be detected on plastic and stainless steel after 72 hours.

However, the quantity of the virus present “dropped rapidly over time”, according to The Guardian.

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