If you’re concerned about the coronavirus outbreak, here’s what you can do in addition to washing your hands: clean your room, your clothes, and the bathroom.
Researchers from Singapore analyzed the bedrooms and bathrooms of 3 patients infected with the novel coronavirus. The also took samples after the rooms were cleaned, to see how much cleaning and disinfection help destroy the virus. The room of one patient was sampled before routine cleaning, while the rooms of the other two patients were sampled after disinfection measures.
Even as the patients were infected, the disinfected rooms were clear of contamination.
Cleanliness is your friend
The team suspected that aside from spreading the infection through coughing and sneezing, environmental contamination could also be an important factor in the disease’s transmission.
They were right.
In the case of the patient who simply cleaned the room, the virus could still be detected in the room, although less than before cleaning. While air samples tested negative, the rooms themselves were contaminated. Swabs taken from air exhaust outlets were positive, suggesting that virus-laden droplets can be sucked in and deposited into vents (and raising further concerns about the virus potentially spreading through air conditioning).
Toilet bowl and sink samples were also positive, suggesting that stool might also be a potential route of transmission.
However, disinfectants seem to kill the virus quite handily
The researchers also note that the risk of transmission from contaminated footwear is likely low — as there were no positive samples in the anteroom and corridor where patients were storing their footwear.
Wash your hands, clean your room
Of course, hand hygiene is crucial — first and foremost, you should wash your hands (or sanitize them if washing is not an option), but cleaning and disinfecting your room and clothes can also help to prevent environmental contamination. The fact that toilets are also a good gateway for the virus is an important find, suggesting that public toilets, in particular, should be cleaned as often as possible (and maybe avoided).
“Significant environmental contamination by patients with SARS-CoV-2 through respiratory droplets and fecal shedding suggests the environment as a potential medium of transmission and supports the need for strict adherence to environmental and hand hygiene,” the authors wrote.
Of course, this is still a preliminary study with multiple limitations (for starters, the viability of the virus cultures was not tested), but as the outbreak continues to unfold, it offers potentially valuable insights into how to reduce risks.
Simply cleaning and disinfecting your room is effective — there’s no reason not to do it.
The study has been published in JAMA.