Scientists have revealed coronavirus can be spread through the shoes of hospital patients and doctors, staying active for days.
A new study has found the virus can be spread through the shoe soles of hospital workers and patients.
Workers in hospitals, clinics and pharmacies are being warned to disinfect their footwear following a report by the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, which found around half of healthcare workers in ICUs carried the potentially deadly disease on the soles of their shoes.
The study was based on surface and air samples from both an intensive care unit and general Covid-19 ward at Huoshenshan Hospital in Wuhan – the epicentre of the virus outbreak, which has gone on to infect close to two million people around the world and kill more than 118,000.
Researchers found there was a 100 per cent positivity rate from the floor of the pharmacy that was tested where only healthcare workers travelled.
The team of scientists, from the Academy of Military Sciences in Beijing, tested the concentration of the diseases on surfaces.
The virus was most heavily concentrated on the floors of the ICU wards, they found, "perhaps because of gravity and air flow causing most virus droplets to float to the ground".
"Furthermore, half of the samples from the soles of the ICU medical staff shoes tested positive," the group wrote in the study, coming to the conclusion "the soles of medical staff shoes might function as carriers".
Coronavirus is most commonly spread through small droplets from the nose or mouth, released when a person infected with the disease coughs or exhales. The droplets then land on objects and surfaces around the person, and the disease is then contracted by other people who either touch these surfaces and then touch their eyes, nose or mouth or if they breathe-in droplets from the infected person when they cough or exhale.
Most shoes have a non-porous rubbery sole – a surface on which the virus can last as long as three days, previous research has found.
"We've learned from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases that coronavirus can remain active on some surfaces, like plastic, for up to two to three days," public health specialist Carol Winner told the Huffington Post.
"This suggests that viruses deposited on shoes made of plastic could retain the active virus for a few days."
Emergency physician Cwanza Pinckney told the publication the sole of the shoe was the "breeding ground of more bacteria and fungi and viruses than the upper part of the shoe".
A 2008 study by microbiologists at the University of Arizona found the average shoe sole contained some 421,000 bacteria, viruses and parasites.
According to Winner, however, shoes are one of the least likely ways of contracting the virus.
"Pragmatically, they are on the body part furthest from our face, and we know that the greatest risk of transmission is person to person, not shoe to person," she said.
However, the team of researchers from Beijing still "highly recommend that persons disinfect shoe soles before walking out of wards containing Covid-19 patients" to stop any potential spread.
HOW LONG COVID-19 SURVIVES ON THESE SURFACES:
• When the virus is attached to airborne droplets like moisture from coughs and sneezes, fog, dust or medical gases, it can survive up to three hours.
• On copper surfaces like drawer handles, the virus can last up to four hours.
• On hard non-porous surfaces like metal doorknobs, plastic or metal buttons, handrails, light switches, keyboards and desks, the virus lasts the longest – between two and three days.
• On fabrics like clothing or gloves, the virus can survive for 24 hours.