As a new coronavirus spreads quickly around the world, US health officials say they are "aggressively" assessing how long it can survive on surfaces to better understand the risk of transmission.
Based on what is known about similar coronaviruses, disease experts say the new outbreak of the virus, named COVID-19, is mainly spread from person to person through coughing or sneezing. Contact with fecal matter from an infected person may also transmit the virus.
The US Centers 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.