How do diseases transmit via surfaces?
Karin Gallandat avatar
Written by Karin Gallandat
Updated over a week ago

Infectious diseases can be transmitted through surfaces (see figure below). Surfaces can include a range of commonly touched objects such as tabletops, doorknobs, toys, light switches, and other objects. Generally speaking, the likelihood of disease transmission through surfaces depends on the following factors:

  • Amount of pathogen (virus) shed by infected individuals

  • Virus survival on surfaces

  • Rate of transfer from surfaces to hands and mouth/nose/eyes

  • Number of viruses required to cause disease (infectious dose)

  • Resistance of the virus to disinfection

This review provides a synthesis of the mechanisms involved in surface-mediated virus transmission, including evidence related to SARS-CoV-2 .

While SARS-CoV-2 transmission via surfaces is possible, the scientific evidence available to date suggests that the primary transmission route for SARS-CoV-2 is airborne (as outlined in this Lancet comment) and that contaminated surfaces present a low risk (as noted in this Science Brief by the US CDC).

Surface-mediated transmission. Adapted from: Julian, 2010.

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Editor's Note

Author: Karin Gallandat
Review: Karen Levy, Jacqueline Knee, Sian White, Robert Dreibelbis
Last Update: 29.07.2021

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