The Updated Science on COVID and Surface Transmission
by Mark Dunsmuir
About a year ago, I wrote an article about the importance of cleaning your camera as we faced the reality of a COVID-19 pandemic. Based on the science at the time, I strongly advocated for a “better safe than sorry” approach. Recently, the CDC has published a brief explaining updated science on surface transmission.
As with my last post, you should not rely on this article as medical advice. I have canvassed and collected information from a series of experts. I have no medical background.
The Early Advice
Earlier in the pandemic, medical authorities suggested that fomite transmission, in our case, transmission from your camera to you, was a real risk. So, someone infected with the virus could sneeze, cough, or breathe on your camera. You could then pick up the virus by breathing close to your camera or touching your camera and then touching a mucus membrane — your eyes or nose, for example.
The CDC has now figured out that the odds of contracting the virus in this way are much lower than originally thought. The CDC initially explained that the virus could last for days to weeks on harder plastics or metals, the tools of the trade for us. Now, however, the CDC is estimating that 99% of the virus dies within three days on hard, solid surfaces, even less on porous surfaces.
Even though the CDC notes that surface transmission is not the primary mode of transmission, three days is a relatively long time for the virus to live on a camera or lens we may be touching our hands and face to quite often. A little cleaning isn’t going to hurt you, but the virus will. So, the CDC still recommends cleaning high-touch surfaces and continuing to wash your hands diligently. In fact, the CDC suggests that handwashing has a substantial effect on the potential for transmission, whereas disinfection of surfaces has less impact on transmission, though it certainly doesn’t hurt.
Check out my earlier article for the cleaning methods being used by LensRentals, Canon, and Nikon.
Background for lead image used under Creative Commons HFCM Communicatie.