Coronaviruses such as the killer Wuhan strain can survive on doorknobs and train handrails for up to nine days, research has found.
Unless surfaces are disinfected the virus may lurk on them and stay contagious for more than four times as long as the flu, which survives for two days.
A study has revealed the viruses are relatively easy to kill with alcohol or bleach but can live for a long time if left undisturbed.
And the scientists behind it warn protective gear worn by medics must be disposed of immediately because coronaviruses can survive on them for up to two days.
The research comes amid an outbreak of a new type of coronavirus that is gripping the world, infecting more than 40,000 people around the world and killing 910.
Coroanviruses can survive on doorknobs and bus and train handrails for more than a week, research has found. Pictured: Medics disinfect shops in Shandong province on January 28.
Experts say the difficulty of containing the coronavirus is that so many patients have mild, cold-like symptoms and don’t realise they have the infection – but it can quickly turn deadly.
The new Wuhan coronavirus has infected more than 40,000 and killed 910 people around the world.
Understanding the virus and how to destroy it – and doing so – are ‘crucial’ to stopping the outbreak and controlling the illness, the scientists said.
The research was done by a team of experts from Ruhr University Bochum and the University of Greifswald, both in Germany.
Experts extracted data from 22 studies looking at the survival rate of coronaviruses, including the SARS and MERS strains.
The researchers found that coronaviruses can persist on inanimate surfaces such as plastic, glass, metal and wood for between two hours and nine days, on average.
When an inanimate object is exposed to viruses and can spread pathogens, it is known as a ‘fomite’.
Like the flu, the viruses prefer colder weather and can live on inanimate objects for up to 28 days if the temperature is 4C or lower.
But temperatures above 30C slash its survival rate, the study published in the Journal of Hospital Infection found.
The research also found that the viruses were easy to kill with simple cleaning products – alcohol based disinfectant took just one minute to destroy the coronavirus.
Bleach on the other hand took just 30 seconds to disinfect whatever object was contaminated.
More than 40,000 people have now caught the killer coronavirus – nearly 99 per cent of the cases have been recorded in China.
Figures also show 910 people have now died across the world, with all but two deaths recorded in mainland China.
The analysis did not look at how much of the virus can transfer from the fomites to humans, but the researchers estimate it to be ‘above 31 per cent’.
Fomite transmission varies, however, between different viruses and based on how long the germs are sitting on a surface before someone comes along to touch it.
Writing in the study, the researchers, led by professor Gunter Kampft from the University of Greifswald, said: ‘Human coronaviruses can remain infectious on inanimate surfaces at room temperature for up to nine days.
‘At a temperature of 30C or more the duration of persistence is shorter. Veterinary coronaviruses have been shown to persist even longer for 28 days.
‘No data were found to describe the frequency of hands becoming contaminated with coronavirus, or the viral load on hands either, after patient contact or after touching contaminated surfaces.
‘The WHO recommends to preferably apply alcohol-based hand rubs for the decontamination of hands, e.g. after removing gloves.
‘It could be shown with influenza A virus that a contact of 5 s can transfer 31.6 per cent of the viral load to the hands.’