EXPERT REACTION: Coronavirus - Answers to your latest questions on the virus and cleaning

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We asked you for your burning coronavirus questions. Below are experts answers to some common questions about the virus and cleaning

Organisation/s: The University of New South Wales, Burnet Institute, La Trobe University

Expert Reaction

These comments have been collated by the Science Media Centre to provide a variety of expert perspectives on this issue. Feel free to use these quotes in your stories. Views expressed are the personal opinions of the experts named. They do not represent the views of the SMC or any other organisation unless specifically stated.

Professor Stuart Tangye is Leader of the Immunity & Inflammation Theme and Head of the Immunology & Immunodeficiency Lab at the Garvan Institute of Medical research. He is also a Professor (Conjoint) at St Vincent's Clinical School, Faculty of Medicine, UNSW Sydney
  • Is it true this virus doesn't like hot temperatures?

"Depends on the actual temperature. Viruses survive very well in the host cells that they infect – for humans, our cells are 37C. so this is ideal for a virus. However, like all organisms, viruses contain proteins and proteins can be affected by heat (basically frying an egg is an extreme example of what happens when proteins overheat – they completely denature). So heat (high temperatures) will inactivate some viruses"

  • Someone sneezes or coughs on food (or handles it and they have coronavirus) and later you buy and cook that food - does cooking kill the virus?

"It probably would but I am not sure exactly what temperatures would be needed to kill coronavirus. A lot of equipment in places like hospitals would be sterilised by high heat – this is done to kill of bacteria and viruses. So again it all depends on what temperatures people are referring to."

  • What are good household cleaning products for surfaces ? Can I use a steam cleaner to sterilise? And what’s a good cleaning routine?

"Regular bath soap is great. Any common cleaning products that contain bleach. Alcohol based hand sanitisers are also very effective as long as they are >60% alcohol/ethanol

Last updated: 27 Apr 2020 3:39pm
Declared conflicts of interest:
None declared.
Hassan Vally is an Associate Professor in Epidemiology at La Trobe University
  • What are good household cleaning products for surfaces ? Can I use a steam cleaner to sterilise? And what’s a good cleaning routine?

"There is quite a bit of evidence now about how coronavirus can survive for extended periods of time on surfaces, so paying more attention to cleaning at this time makes sense. It’s also good to know that coronavirus, however, is killed pretty easily.

Any good disinfectant will be effective for cleaning surfaces, but the important thing is  to make sure you cover surfaces properly with disinfectant and scrub with pressure using a sponge or towel. Currently, cleaning surfaces more often than usual is good practice, as is paying more attention to personal hygiene.

Heat kills pretty much all bacteria and viruses, so a steam cleaner will work well to clean surfaces too.

Last updated: 15 Apr 2020 1:10pm
Declared conflicts of interest:
None declared.
Dr Sacha Stelzer-Braid is a Senior Postdoctoral Scientist in the Virology Research Lab at University of New South Wales and the Prince of Wales Hospital

- What are good household cleaning products for surfaces ? Can I use a steam cleaner to sterilise? And what’s a good cleaning routine?​

"If someone within the home has confirmed or suspected COVID-19 (i.e. if they have symptoms and have recently been overseas or in contact with a confirmed case), it is a good idea to quarantine them within one room or one area of the house, to prevent transmission to other household members. If possible the infected person should use a separate bathroom.

A good cleaning routine would include:

*wiping high touch (i.e. frequently touched) surfaces (such as light switches, door handles, phones, TV remotes, etc) often, and the bathroom used by the infected person, with soap (or detergent) and water and then decontaminating with an agent such as diluted bleach if it is appropriate for the surface  (0.1-0.5% household bleach (which is usually 5% sodium hypochlorite​​) is useful, always follow the manufacturers recommendations ). If using bleach, make sure the area is well ventilated and wear gloves and eye protection.

*Wear gloves when cleaning and dispose of immediately after.

*Wash hands often with soap and water, especially after contact with sick person.

*Always close the toilet lid when flushing as SARS-CoV-2 can be found in faeces.

*Keep the house well ventilated so that fresh air can circulate and the virus/germs can be flushed out

*Dispose of used tissues in a bin with a closed lid. Take out to the garbage regularly (wearing gloves)

*Handle bedding and clothing of infected person with gloves and wash in regular laundry liquid, hot wash if possible. Dry in the sun.

*Keep utensils and plates used by infected person separate and wash often (dishwasher is best but using detergent and hot water would also work)

* Limit visitors to the infected person, use phone communication instead. If a family household, consider having only one parent/guardian caring for an infected child, to minimise the spread to other household members.

Last updated: 06 Apr 2020 8:29pm
Declared conflicts of interest:
None declared.
Dr Clovis Palmer is a Visiting Research Fellow at The Wistar Institute in Philadelphia and a Senior Lecturer at Monash University
  • Is it true this virus doesn't like hot temperatures?

"Some of these assumptions are based on previous studies conducted on different coronaviruses, such as SARS-CoV where it has been shown that the virus remained viable for up to 5 days at around room temperature (23-25C) -  the temperature we may be exposed to in an air conditioned room. It is important not to over-speculate because SARS-CoV-2 ( the virus that causes COVID-19 disease) is genetically different from other SARS coronaviruses, so it is likely to behave differently."

  • Someone sneezes or coughs on food (or handles it and they have coronavirus) and later you buy and cook that food - does cooking kill the virus?

"SARS-CoV-2 ( the virus that causes COVID-19 disease) can survive on plastic, metal, wood, cardboard etc. The length of time the virus remains viable varies significantly between surfaces. It is important to wash hands regularly with water and soap for at least 20 seconds. Food should be cooked thoroughly, and as for vegetables, on the side of caution perhaps steaming briefly wouldn’t hurt for now – but there is no specific recommendations regarding this.

Last updated: 23 Mar 2020 9:43am
Declared conflicts of interest:
None declared.

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