Coronavirus explainer: How Covid-19 spreads
Since it first broke out in China in December last year, coronavirus is spreading rapidly across the globe. The outbreak has now reached 60 countries and affected close to 90,000 people.
More than 3,000 people have died after contracting Covid-19, the official name of the disease given by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Based on what is known about similar coronaviruses, disease experts say the new outbreak of the virus is mainly spread from person to person through coughing or sneezing. Contact with faecal matter from an infected person may also transmit the virus.
The US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention says it may be possible for a person to become infected by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose or eyes.
An analysis of 22 earlier studies of similar coronaviruses, including Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) published online this month in the Journal of Hospital Infection, concluded that human coronaviruses can remain infectious on inanimate surfaces for up to nine days at room temperature. However, they can quickly be rendered inactive using common disinfectants, and may also dissipate at higher temperatures, the authors wrote. It is not yet clear, however, whether the new coronavirus behaves in a similar way.
The agency said there is likely a very low risk of spread from products or packaging that are shipped over a period of days or weeks at ambient temperatures.
Dr Timothy Brewer, professor of epidemiology and medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles explained that such viruses tend to survive the longest in low-temperature, low-humidity environments, “that is why you see lots of respiratory viruses during the winter”.
Twenty eight confirmed cases of coronavirus are reported in India and the government said it will now be screening passengers from all countries as a precautionary measure. New Delhi had earlier put passengers from 12 countries under the scanner.