Environmental contamination of SARS-CoV-2 during the COVID-19 outbreak in South Korea


      • SARS-CoV-2 was detected from various surfaces surrounding COVID-19 patients.
      • Extensive viral contamination was found especially around an intubated patient.
      • Therefore, strict contact precaution is needed in managing COVID-19 patients.


      Although contact precaution is generally recommended in situations where coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is suspected, there is limited evidence on environmental contamination of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). Therefore, we conducted environmental surveillance on SARS-CoV-2 contamination in 2 different healthcare settings.


      Viral contamination was investigated on the environment of 2 hospitals that had admitted 13 COVID-19 patients. In hospital A, 5 patients with pneumonia occupied negative pressure rooms. In hospital B, 8 asymptomatic patients shared 2 common 4-bed rooms. Most rooms were poorly cleaned or disinfected. Environmental swab were collected from inside and outside the rooms and were tested using real-time RT-PCR for the detection of SARS-CoV-2.


      In hospital A, SARS-CoV-2 was detected in 10 of 57 (17.5%) samples from inside the rooms including the Ambu bag and infusion pump. Two samples obtained at more than 2 m from the patients showed positive results. In hospital B, 3 of 22 (13.6%) samples from inside the rooms were positive. Areas outside the rooms, such as the anteroom, corridor, and nursing station, were all negative in both hospitals.


      Hospital surfaces surrounding patients were contaminated by SARS-CoV-2. Our findings support the value of strict contact precaution, routine cleaning, and disinfection in the management of COVID-19 patients.

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