With COVID-19 spreading unrelentingly, everyone is going the extra mile to avoid getting infected. However, here's a new report, and it isn't exactly the good news that you'd want to be reading about now. Still and all, it is a necessary update that can save you from coronavirus infection.
For a moment, stop and ask yourself, how often do the gas pumps get sanitized? We don’t know for sure, and possibly not as often as necessary. The bad news is – you can easily contract the virus while pumping gas to your car because the virus can survive on various surfaces for some time.
Gas pumps are among the surfaces that house many germs, at least as per a survey conducted in the US. Contaminants and viruses, which may include SARS-CoV-2, can easily dwell on pump handles and keypads too. Before we delve into this, let’s get apprised of all facts regarding the virus and how it can be transmitted via surfaces.
How long does coronavirus last on surfaces?
If there is something we have learnt from the cases reported in various countries so far, it is how crucial social distancing is today. Unfortunately, we aren't self-sustaining, and for various reasons, we may need to go out. It could be to get medical supplies, food, or daily essentials.
This means once a while, we have to make that trip to the fuel station. Touching the pump handle or keypad is almost inevitable in such a case. In a single day, many people visit the same pumping station and touch the keypad when making payment.
It is, therefore, neither surprising nor impossible that the virus can be present in the gas pump. But how long can it stay alive on the gas pump surface? We shall get to that in a minute.
Amidst this pandemic, we can take some relief that the virus can only reproduce inside another cell. What it means is that without a host, the virus that causes COVID-19 trails off.
That said, the virus can still survive outside the host. The New England Journal of Medicine recently published a study showing that SARS-CoV-2 can survive on different surfaces. How long the virus remains viable depends on the particular surface.
In the study, the researchers experimented on various surfaces to determine the stability of SARS-CoV-2. Experiments revealed that the virus could survive in the air for 3 hours. The virus was also found to be more stable on stainless steel and plastic surfaces than wood and copper.
For copper, the virus petered out after four hours, while on wood (cardboard), it took 24 hours. On steel and plastic, the virus was detected even after 72 hours.
Reviewing the risk of getting infected with coronavirus
This study underscores the extreme importance of avoiding high-touch areas and surfaces. Infected people are mostly asymptomatic in the first few days and leave virus traces on the surfaces they touch without being aware of it.
If you get in contact with these surfaces, say at the fuel station, you are likely to get infected. Likely infected? Yes, likely. It is because although the virus can last for up to 72 hours, the risk of infection doesn’t remain constant.
According to Stuart Tangye, an immunologist at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research, the risk of infection goes down with each passing minute. The SARS-CoV-2 has an estimated median half-life of 6.7 hours on a plastic surface. This implies that there is only half as much of the virus on a plastic surface 6.8 hours after it was left.
How to avoid coronavirus infection when pumping gas
Seeing as pump handles are easily contaminated, taking precautions is a must to prevent infections. The best overall measure remains washing hands properly regularly.
We also recommended the following precautions when pumping gas.
- Travel with a few pairs of disposable gloves to use when handling the gas pump. In case you can’t get your hands on a pair of gloves, you can use paper towels.
- When keying in information on the payment keypad, use gloves or paper towels as well. Avoid touching the keys directly.
- After filling gas in your car, remove the gloves, invert and dispose of them. If you used paper towels, do the same as well.
- If it is possible, thoroughly wash your hands after you are done. Sanitizers can also serve the same purpose.
Whichever of the above precautionary measures you prefer will help in mitigating the spread of the virus. Always make sure you keep safe and carry with you a hand sanitizer at all times. For more news relevant to the automotive industry and the car-riding community, visit Carpart.com.au regularly.
By Sam O.