Ebola virus can live on for days on hospital surfaces

The Ebola virus can live on surfaces in hospitals for nearly two weeks, longer than it would under non-climate controlled conditions in West Africa, a new study suggests.

Researchers tested how long the virus could survive on plastic, stainless steel and Tyvek, a material used in Ebola suits.

“We evaluated the stability of Ebola virus on surfaces and in fluids under simulated environmental conditions for the climate of West Africa and for climate-controlled hospitals,” the researchers wrote. 

“This virus remains viable for a longer duration on surfaces in hospital conditions than in African conditions and in liquid than in dried blood.”

Under hospital conditions – 21 degrees Celsius and 40% humidity – the virus lived for 11 days on Tyvek, eight days on plastic and four days on stainless steel.

The longest the virus was able to survive in the tropical conditions of the equivalent of the West African climate (27°C C and 80% humidity) was three days, on Tyvek.

The virus also survived in liquid blood for 14 days, dried blood for five and in water for up six days.

“Given the unprecedented number of health care professionals who became infected with Ebola virus during the outbreak, we are trying to elucidate all potential routes of transmission and potential for persistence of the virus,” said study researcher Vincent Munster, chief of the Virus Ecology Unit at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases’ Rocky Mountain Laboratories in Hamilton, Montana.

The higher heat and humidity of the tropical conditions may be harmful to the virus, but the researchers still need to test whether it is the temperature, the humidity or a combination of the two that is causing the virus to degrade more quickly, Munster told Rachael Rettner at Live Science.

Bill Condie

Bill Condie

Bill Condie is a science journalist based in Adelaide, Australia.

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