How does refrigeration affect Coronavirus survival/decay rate?
April 22, 2020 1:36 PM   Subscribe

Plenty of sources have indicated that most of the virus will die off/decay after about 3 days on most surfaces. On many porous surfaces, like cardboard, it lasts much less time. But I can't seem to figure out: how would these times be affected by refrigeration?

The only thing I can seem to find is that the virus would thrive at that temperature. But given that these are still just surfaces, how long can it reasonably survive? There's no host to support a virus on a can of beer, for example. Is there any guidance out there to answer this question and put a time limit on it? Would help put me at ease, thanks!

(And yes, I know I can just wipe down the fridge stuff and stop worrying, but all the same I'm still curious)
posted by summerteeth to Health & Fitness (5 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
This turns out to be quite a complicated question! Here's a paper that may help answer your questions using temperature and humidity, although it's not specifically about refrigeration:
Survival of the Enveloped Virus Phi6 in Droplets as a Function of Relative Humidity, Absolute Humidity, and Temperature.
posted by Knowyournuts at 2:04 PM on April 22, 2020

A virus isn't in the same category as cell-based life, so it doesn't thrive so much as "hang out". According one study it can potentially hang out in your fridge for weeks, and in the freezer for longer. That's why I like to wipe down everything with soapy water before it goes in.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 3:30 PM on April 22, 2020 [2 favorites]

I'm not a scientist and this information is to be considered anecdotal. But here where I live, the virus is spreading like wildfire in refrigerated meatpacking facilities, with hundreds of new cases this week and plant-wide shutdowns occurring at multiple plants. My company is large manufacturer that operates massive assembly plants in many of the same communities. One of the meatpacking shutdowns happened in the same community where we have a foundry, three assembly plants, and an engine plant. None of our plants in this community is being hit by an outbreak.

Now, I don't know what it's like inside of these meatpacking plants, but they're producing food and we're not. I imagine there's lots of cleanliness regulations at these places that simply don't apply to a heavy manufacturer like us. Why would there be such a disparity in the spread of this virus between our facilities and theirs? The ambient temperature is the only significant difference that I can think of.
posted by TrialByMedia at 3:31 PM on April 22, 2020 [6 favorites]

That's why I like to wipe down everything with soapy water before it goes in.

Maybe you're only referring to packaging, but if you use soap on surfaces of things you are actually consuming, you're liable to make yourself sick.
posted by praemunire at 3:44 PM on April 22, 2020 [1 favorite]

This Week in Virology answered a listener's question. Does freezing kill the virus?

Nope. That's how virologists extend their viability in labs.

(I am dumb, just parroting scientists)
posted by j_curiouser at 4:49 PM on April 22, 2020 [3 favorites]

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