The killer bug coronavirus, officially named COVID19 by the World Health Organisation (WHO), may be able to survive on surfaces including door handles, public toilets and currency, according to a top disease expert. Dr Martin Wiselka, consultant on infectious diseases at the University of Leicester NHS Trust, warned Britain may be “on the cusp of something we might not be able to control”.
It was originally believed the virus was passed only through direct person-to-person contact with someone from an infected area.
However fears are growing it may be transmitted through non-personal contact similar to colds and flu meaning its spread could become more prolific than first thought.
While all cases of the virus in the UK have so far been contained, Britons have been warned to use alcohol sanitiser after visiting public spaces.
Dr Martin Wiselka, consultant on infectious diseases at the University of Leicester NHS Trust, said: “My opinion is that this particular virus can be spread from surfaces in a similar way to colds and flu, if somebody touches a door handle who is infected and that handle is then touched by someone else, then the virus could be passed on this way.
“Viruses on surfaces can survive for several days, this includes plastic surfaces and door handles.
“Money is another route, money changes hands quickly, so if you sneeze on your hands and then put your hands in your pocket to take money out and then give it to someone else, that could pass it on.
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SARS took around a year to bring under control after killing around 770 people the majority of which were elderly or had an underlying health condition.
Dr Wiselka said: “We may be on the cusp of something we are not able to control, or this may be something we will be able to control, it is still too early to tell.
“At the moment we are reasonably optimistic that this is under control so far, however at it is still too early to tell.
“This virus seems to act in a similar way to SARS, however it does appear to be more contagious than SARS.”
“We should know in the next couple of weeks.”
The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention said it is still unclear whether the virus can be passed on through touching surfaces.