Abstract

SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic, is perceived to be primarily transmitted via person-to-person contact through droplets produced while talking, coughing, and sneezing. Transmission may also occur through other routes, including contaminated surfaces; nevertheless, the role that surfaces have on the spread of the disease remains contested. Here, we use the Quantitative Microbial Risk Assessment framework to examine the risks of community transmission of SARS-CoV-2 through surfaces and to evaluate the effectiveness of hand and surface disinfection as potential interventions. Using conservative assumptions on input parameters of the model (e.g., dose–response relationship, ratio of genome copies to infective virus), the average of the median risks for single hand-to-surface contact followed by hand-to-face contact range from 1.6 × 10–4 to 5.6 × 10–9 for modeled prevalence rates of 0.2%–5%. For observed prevalence rates (0.2%, 1%), this corresponds to a low risk of infection (<10–6). Hand disinfection substantially reduces risks of transmission independently of the disease’s prevalence and contact frequency. In contrast, the effectiveness of surface disinfection is highly dependent on the prevalence and the frequency of contacts. The work supports the current perception that contaminated surfaces are not a primary mode of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and affirms the benefits of making hand disinfectants widely available.

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