Recently, hundreds of scientists wrote an open letter to WHO, demanding to expand the list of risks of transmission of coronavirus infection and to review preventive measures. As if confirming that they were right, Business Insider reports a case of infection through the elevator button, which eventually caused a covert in more than 70 people.
In mid-March, a resident of China returned home from the United States. Despite the absence of any symptoms, upon arrival she locked herself in quarantine in her apartment, avoiding close contact with other residents of her apartment building. An antibody test later revealed that she was an asymptomatic carrier of coronavirus. Three weeks later, her neighbor from below, and then four of her close friends, gave a positive result. As it turned out, the women never crossed paths, but they used the same elevator.
A new study by scientists from Hubei University, published in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases, is dedicated to this occasion. According to this study, everything suggests that a neighbor from below got infected in the elevator after being used by an asymptomatic carrier. The transmission most likely occurred by touching the surfaces and buttons of the elevator.
No other resident of the house gave a positive result, but subsequent contact tracing showed that the neighbor was a “zero patient”, passing the infection through a chain of 71 people. A week after the appearance of an asymptomatic traveler, this neighbor from below left her mother and her boyfriend to spend the night in her apartment, and three days later the couple went to a party where she talked with a friend. A few days later, the entire chain, starting with an asymptomatic carrier, received a positive test result. A friend from a party had a stroke, and before the test gave a positive result for covid, he was hospitalized. As a result, 28 people: his relatives, patients and doctors - were infected. Then the man moved to the second hospital, causing a series of infections there. By mid-April, 70 people were infected.
Scientists from the China Center for Disease Control and Prevention sequenced the genome of virus samples collected in a cluster and determined that the samples were almost identical and the virus genome was different from other samples previously circulated in China. This indicated that the virus originated abroad, and led to the version according to which the asymptomatic traveler was the source of infection for this entire cluster.
The main problem of elevators in the era of coronaviruses is that almost all of them are small enclosed spaces. These are ideal conditions for the spread of coronavirus, as it is transmitted through drops that appear when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or speaks. In addition, the ventilation in the elevators is poor, and the absence of a strong air flow leads to the fact that COVID-19 carriers, even if they are pre-symptomatic or asymptomatic, can leave behind a certain amount of viral particles. Such cases are not too frequent, but it is quite possible to get infected after you first touch the surface or object on which the virions are left, and then - to your mouth, nose or eyes.
The life span of a virus on different surfaces depends on ambient temperature, humidity, type of surface and other factors. However, as some studies show, coronavirus survives on stainless steel and plastic for the longest time — up to seven days — these materials are usually found in elevators.