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Pathological Life Outside Life

Scott LaFee on

Inside the human body, bacteria, viruses and other microbial pathogens can live for days, weeks, maybe months -- or less. Their existence is usually measured by how quickly our immune system can get rid of them.

Outside the body, the life expectancy of a microbe is equally varied.

Rhinoviruses that cause the common cold can survive on indoor, nonporous surfaces (stainless steel, ceramic tile) for hours and up to more than a week, but they typically survive much shorter periods on porous surfaces, such as fabrics or tissues.

Influenza viruses survive on hard surfaces for 24 hours, during which time they are transferable to hands, but they survive only 15 minutes or so on tissues and soft, porous fabrics.

The novel coronavirus, COVID-19, is still mostly a microbial mystery, but recent studies suggest it is stable (and thus infectious) on metal surfaces for up to four hours, up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to two to three days on plastic and stainless steel.

The surface survivability of microbes is just one aspect. Microbes that can remain airborne for periods of time pose an alternate threat of exposure. That's why proper etiquette for coughing and sneezing, plus social distancing, is so crucial.

 

Novel coronavirus is largely believed to be droplet-borne, which means it lingers less in the air. Stay six feet or more away from others and any suspect droplets, spewed by uncovered coughs, sneezes or exhalations, will fall harmlessly to the ground. Or on surfaces that can be effectively cleaned.

Body of Knowledge

According to a 2006 Vanderbilt University study, laughing causes a 10% to 20% increase in energy expenditure and heart rate. Ten to 15 minutes of laughter per day burns up to 40 calories, but the laughter must be genuine and voiced. Courtesy chuckles don't count.

Get Me That, Stat!

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