New research published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reveals that the wide-spreading coronavirus (COVID-19) can travel 13 feet through the air and be carried around on people’s shoes.
This comes after researchers analyzed medical workers in a hospital in Wuhan, China. The study team tested air and surface samples at Huoshenshan Hospital in Wuhan, China, to detect the distribution of the coronavirus that causes the disease known as COVID-19.
Overall, they reported, the samples that tested positive for the virus were concentrated in the contaminated areas, particularly in the ICU. The floor swabs also had a high rate of positive tests, potentially due to virus droplets falling on the ground. Half of the ICU staff’s shoes also tested positive.
“Therefore, the soles of medical staff shoes might function as carriers. We highly recommend that persons disinfect shoe soles before walking out of wards containing COVID-19 patients,” the researchers wrote.
Coronavirus spreads primarily through respiratory droplets, such as those generated when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The droplets then land on objects and surfaces around the person, and the disease is then contracted by other people who either touch these surfaces and then touch their eyes, nose or mouth or if they breathe in droplets from the infected person when they cough or exhale.
Most shoe soles feature non-porous materials, such as rubber, leather and PVC compounds, and can carry high levels of bacteria, according to a study published by Charles Gerba, a microbiologist, and professor at the University of Arizona.
“I don’t think bringing the virus home on the soles of your shoes is going to contribute to spreading the virus in any major way to any home environment,” infectious disease specialist William Schaffner, M.D. told PreventionMagazine.
However, if you have small children who spend time on the floor, you like to hang out on your floor, or if you want to be extra cautious, he says it’s not a bad idea to leave your shoes at the door when you come home, especially if you live in an area with a high number of COVID-19 cases. Then, wash your hands after handling your shoes.
“I can’t emphasize good hand hygiene enough,” Dr. Schaffner says. “If you want to take off your shoes at the door, fine. But that’s a small additional thing you can do—it’s not the main way to prevent the spread of coronavirus.”
With no ideal method for cleaning shoes to best protect against the coronavirus, the CDC advises that to disinfect your shoes, make a mixture of 70% alcohol and water.