Look, don’t touch: Study illustrates how hard it is to keep surfaces virus-free

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Within the short span of just a few weeks, doorknobs, counters and other communal surfaces all over the country have become public enemy number one. We’re all adapting to life post-COVID-19 right now and one of the bigger adjustments is figuring out how to ensure our homes and hands stay clean. To that end, a new study has shown just how hard maintaining a germ-free environment can be.

Researchers at Ohio State University marked surfaces within a small veterinary practice every day for a total of five and a half weeks with a fluorescent dye only visible when placed under a black light. Every 24 hours the surfaces were checked by researchers to see if they had been adequately cleaned and the dye had been removed.

All in all, the results were rather concerning. On average, only about half of the surfaces were sufficiently cleaned over the course of the study. Moreover, surfaces often touched by humans, such as computers and keyboards, medical equipment, and dog leashes, were cleaned less often than other areas primarily touched by animals only.

So, how can you ensure the surfaces in your home stay clean? The study’s authors recommend creating a daily checklist of the places and objects you and your family touch most often. Those are going to be the high-risk areas when it comes to the coronavirus.

“The concept of infectious diseases is around us all the time, but now it’s more important than ever to take steps to protect ourselves,” says senior study author Jason Stull, assistant professor of veterinary preventive medicine at The Ohio State University, in a press release.

“A recent study concluded the coronavirus causing COVID-19 has the ability to survive on certain types of surfaces for hours to a few days. At veterinary practices, other businesses and certainly human hospitals, surface cleaning and disinfection is extremely important. People come in and may contaminate an area and that area potentially can serve as a source of infection for other people,” he adds.

While at the time researchers focused primarily on the spread of germs among animals and humans in close proximity to each other, these findings feel especially relevant given the recent rise of COVID-19.

“Plenty of industries and groups outside of human health care have ramped up their efforts to clean and disinfect common-touch surfaces. The take-home messages from our study can have important parallels for others, such as other veterinary clinics, but also groups such as grocery stores,” Stull explains.

“Our study also highlights that, despite our best efforts, 100 percent cleaning and disinfection is unlikely to occur,” he comments. “This is important to remember, as regardless of where you visit, it’s also best to assume surfaces may be contaminated – and before you come back into your home, you should follow the recommendations to clean your hands and clean items you’ve handled.”

The study is published in the Journal of Small Animal Practice.

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About the Author

John Anderer

Born blue in the face, John has been writing professionally for over a decade and covering the latest scientific research for StudyFinds since 2019. His work has been featured by Business Insider, Eat This Not That!, MSN, Ladders, and Yahoo!

Studies and abstracts can be confusing and awkwardly worded. He prides himself on making such content easy to read, understand, and apply to one’s everyday life.

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