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H1N1 Influenza Virus (Swine Flu) – How long does the virus last on different surfaces?

September 17, 2009

This is a frequently asked question.  When you are cleaning surfaces it is good to know how long the virus is viable. A frequently cited study about survival of influenza viruses on environmental surface indicates that:

Influenza is a hearty virus - can survive up to 48 hours!

Influenza is a hearty virus - can survive up to 48 hours!

  • Influenza A viruses survive 24-48 hours on hard, nonporous surfaces such as stainless steel and plastic, but survive for less than 8-12 hours on cloth, paper, and tissues at conditions of 35% to 49% humidity and a temperature of 28 ºC (≅ 82ºF).
  • Measurable quantities of influenza virus transfer from stainless steel surfaces to hands for 24 hours and from tissues to hands for up to 15 minutes.
  • The virus survives on hands for up to 5 minutes after transfer from the environmental surfaces.

Look around your office and make a plan to keep your area clean.  Where should you focus your attention? The most contaminated surfaces on your desk are:

  • Telephone – a good rule is to only use your phone!
  • Keyboard and mouse
  • Desk surface
Your phone is the "germiest" thing on your desk!  Clean it daily!

Your phone is the "germiest" thing on your desk! Clean it daily!

A good way to start your day is to wipe down these surfaces with a disinfectant wipe before you start your work.

To help prevent transmission of the virus, follow these simple steps:

  • Frequently touched surfaces should be disinfected with an U.S. EPA-registered bleach-based solution or disinfectant product.
  • Surfaces to disinfect include bedside tables, surfaces in the bathroom, toys for children, doorknobs, light switches, telephones and refrigerator handles.
  • Use disinfectant wipes for frequently touched electronic items such as computer mouse and keyboards, phones and remote controls, etc.

The Clorox company has a variety of very well written resource sheets that are in a PDF format.  These information sheets cover cleaning issues in the classroom, home and workplace.  Check out their website at

B. Bean, B. Moore, Survival of Influenza Viruses on Environmental Surfaces. Journal of Infectious Diseases. V. 146(1), 47-51, July 1982. Abstract.


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