Enviro Master Blog

How Long Can Flu Germs Last on a Surface? An In-Depth Analysis

“The influenza virus can survive for up to 48 hours on non-porous surfaces. However, the virus’s ability to infect diminishes over time as its structural integrity degrades.”

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Even outside of flu season, runny noses, sore throats, and coughs find a way to navigate through homes, offices, and schools. The most common culprit: droplets from an infected person sneezing, coughing, or even talking. This contagious respiratory illness doesn’t just leap from person to person through the air; it can also make its home on the surfaces we touch every day. Thus the other silent killer: surface contact. The question then arises: how long can flu germs last on a surface, and what can we do to protect ourselves? 

Understanding Flu Virus Transmission

Influenza, or the flu, is transmitted in two primary ways: directly, from person to person through respiratory droplets expelled when an infected person coughs or sneezes, and indirectly, through touching surfaces contaminated with the virus. 

Factors that influence how long the virus can survive on surfaces:

  1. Virus’s structure
  2. Surrounding climate
  3. Indoor environment conditions
  4. Type of surface contaminated

4 factors influencing viral survival

Factors Influencing Virus Survival on Surfaces

Environmental conditions, like humidity, temperature, and exposure to sunlight affect the lifespan of flu viruses on surfaces. These pathogens are known for their resilience in a variety of conditions, yet their survival times vary based on their environment. Viruses tend to thrive more in moist, cooler climates than in dry, warm ones. Additionally, the material of the surface itself plays a critical role; stainless steel and plastic surfaces, since they are non-porous surfaces, provide a more hospitable environment for viruses compared to porous materials such as fabric and paper.

Flu Virus Lifespan on Surfaces

Research has shown that influenza viruses can remain infectious on surfaces for several hours to days. Specifically, studies have found that influenza A viruses can survive up to 48 hours on hard, nonporous surfaces. On porous surfaces like cloth, the virus’s lifespan drops significantly, often surviving for a shorter duration, making these materials less of a concern for transmission.

However, it’s crucial to differentiate between a virus being detectable on a surface and being capable of causing infection. While viral RNA might be identified on a surface for days, the virus’s ability to infect diminishes over time as its structural integrity degrades. This distinction underscores the importance of not just cleaning surfaces but focusing on those most likely to harbor infectious viruses.

Prevention and Mitigation Strategies

To mitigate the risk of flu virus transmission via surfaces, several strategies can be employed effectively:

Regular Handwashing

Frequent and thorough handwashing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds is a basic of preventing flu spread. When soap and water are unavailable, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol can be a good substitute. This simple act can dramatically reduce the likelihood of virus transmission from surfaces to the body.

According to Pfizer, our hands carry on average 3,200 different germs belonging to more than 150 species. Enviro-Master is here to keep the community clean year-round with our hand hygiene program!

Cleaning and Disinfection

Regularly cleaning and disinfecting household surfaces like doorknobs, light switches, and countertops can help eliminate viruses that may linger. It’s essential to use EPA-registered disinfectants and cleaning products and follow the product instructions for effective use. Particularly in public spaces like offices and classrooms, disinfecting shared equipment and common surfaces can significantly reduce flu virus spread.

At Enviro-Master Services, we use products that are certified safe for consumers and safe for the environment. From our electrostatic spray services for hard surfaces to restroom cleaning services with close contact areas, we ensure your space will be safer for all.

Flu Vaccination

Annual flu vaccination is recommended for everyone aged six months and older, offering protection against the most common flu viruses expected each season. Vaccination not only reduces the risk of flu illness but also diminishes the severity of the disease and the likelihood of hospitalization and death.

Respiratory Hygiene

Any healthy or sick person should practice covering coughs and sneezes with a tissue or the elbow, then washing hands immediately. This simple habit can prevent the spread of infectious diseases to others. Additionally, avoiding touching the face with unwashed hands can decrease the chance of transferring viruses from surfaces to mucous membranes where infection can take hold.

Special Considerations for Public Spaces and Homes

In public spaces and homes, attention to cleaning and personal hygiene plays a crucial role in preventing flu transmission. For homes, particularly during flu season, focusing on disinfecting various surfaces, especially potentially contaminated surfaces, using humidifiers to maintain moisture levels (which can reduce virus survival), and washing linens and towels at high temperatures can all help in reducing flu spread.

Enviro-Master is Here to Keep Clean All Year!

Depending on a variety of factors, like environment and types of surfaces, flu viruses can survive up to 48 hours. Though flu viruses can remain infectious, especially on hard, non-porous surfaces, their infectivity diminishes over time. By following these practical measures, we can significantly reduce the transmission of flu viruses and protect ourselves and our communities during flu season.

Especially in commercial spaces, Enviro-Master can assist with any and all cleanliness concerns to help you stay safe and stay healthy. 

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