CDC Finds Clue to Rapid Spread of Virus on Ships

Nearly half of COVID-19 patients on Diamond Princess were asymptomatic
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 24, 2020 6:17 AM CDT
CDC Finds Clue to Rapid Spread of Virus on Ships
A US Coast Guard boat patrols the waters beside the Grand Princess cruise ship, docked at the Port of Oakland on March 13, 2020, in Oakland, Calif.   (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

If you've been wondering how long the coronavirus can live on surfaces after it's been left behind, new data from the Centers for Disease Control reveals that information—and it's a concerning development. In the CDC's weekly "Morbidity and Mortality" report released Monday and cited by CNBC, RNA from the SARS-CoV-2 virus (better known as the novel coronavirus) was found, before disinfection procedures, "on a variety of surfaces" in the cabins of the Diamond Princess cruise ship—the vessel that was quarantined in Japan last month—up to 17 days after both symptomatic and asymptomatic passengers had emptied out of them. The researchers stress it's unclear if this means the virus was transmitted from those surfaces.

That longevity far surpasses previous research that showed the virus could survive up to a day on cardboard, and up to three days on stainless steel and plastic, though the amount of virus on those surfaces declines as time goes on, per CNBC. The CDC study, which examined how "transmission occurred across multiple voyages of several ships," including the Diamond Princess and Princess's Grand Princess, also dove deeper into the "high attack rate" on cruise ships and found one possible explanation: Of the 712 passengers aboard the Diamond Princess who were ultimately found to have contracted the virus (about 20% of the ship's total population), nearly half—46.5%—were asymptomatic when tested. More than 800 COVID-19 cases emerged from both ships in total, including 10 deaths, the CDC notes. (More coronavirus stories.)

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