COVID-19 more contagious than SARS or MERS, can live on surfaces for up to 9 days, studies say

The novel coronavirus strain responsible for the recent deadly global outbreak is more contagious than SARS and MERS, according to a new study from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Researchers analyzed data from over 72,000 confirmed and suspected cases of COVID-19 and found that the novel coronavirus is more contagious than the related viruses which cause SARS and MERS.

While COVID-19 spreads more easily, it has not yet proven to be as deadly as its related coronavirus strains. Of the 44,672 confirmed cases examined, the Chinese CDC said there were 1,023 deaths, which is a mortality rate of 2.3 percent. The 2003 SARS outbreak had a mortality rate of 14 to 15 percent, while MERS had a case fatality of 35 percent, according to the World Health Organization. 

The number of COVID-19 related fatalities has already surpassed the number of people who died from SARS and MERS because of how rapidly the infection spreads. 

A health worker checks the temperature of women entering the subway on January 26, 2020 in Beijing, China.

The SARS outbreak only claimed the lives of 774 individuals and at least 828 people have died from MERS since 2012, the WHO reported.

Health officials warned that the spread of COVID-19 in the U.S. would be "inevitable" and that "disruption to everyday life might be severe," FOX News reported. 

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"It’s not a question of if this will happen, but when this will happen and how many people in this country will have severe illnesses," Nancy Messonnier, CDC director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said.

Citing the recent uptick of outbreaks in countries like Iran, Italy and South Korea, Messonnier said health officials realize that once the virus hits, it moves "quite rapidly."

"As more and more countries experience community spread, successful containment at our borders becomes harder and harder," Messonnier said. 

COVID-19 is known to spread mainly from person-to-person contact through sneezing and coughing, but a separate study published in The Journal of Hospital Infection found that the virus may be able to live on surfaces like metal, glass or plastic for up to nine days. 

Increased temperatures of 30 or 40 degrees Celsius were found to reduce the duration of how long the virus persisted. Household cleaning products such as bleach were found to be effective at killing the virus on surfaces within a minute, according to the study. 

The Chinese government has ordered banks to destroy money from high-risk areas in effort to reduce COVID-19 from spreading further.

The People’s Bank of China in Guangzhou has destroyed paper currency from hospitals, fresh food markets and buses located in areas exposed to the contagion, the South China Morning Post reported.

The bank’s deputy governor Fan Yifei told reporters that potentially contaminated bills from other hot spot locations will be quarantined and sterilized before being recirculated, according to Bloomberg News

"Money from key virus-hit areas will be sanitized with ultraviolet rays or heated and locked up for at least 14 days before it is distributed again," Yifei said.

This story was reported from Los Angeles.