Self-isolation and social distancing have been highly recommended measures to curb the spread of Coronavirus, however, another way the disease could be spread, like the soles of shoes, is being monitored.
Infectious disease specialists have warned that COVID-19 can live on the soles of shoes for up to five days, with footwear more likely to carry coronavirus if it has been worn in busy areas like supermarkets, airports or on public transport.
According to scientists, the sole of a shoe is the main breeding ground for bacteria, fungi and viruses, but respiratory droplets carried in the air from a person infected with coronavirus can still land anywhere on the upper part of a shoe like the laces or the heel.
Soles are typically made from durable, synthetic materials like rubber, PVC or leather lined with plastic, all of which carry high levels of bacteria because “they are non-porous, meaning they do not allow air, liquid or moisture to pass through.”
Some countries are becoming increasingly mindful of what is brought inside their homes, especially Australia.
The country has recorded a spike of 190 cases overnight in New South Wales alone, bringing nationwide infections to 2,793 and the death toll to 12.
A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine showed coronavirus can live on cardboard for 24 hours and on stainless steel and plastic for up to to three days.
Studies have shown the virus can remain on synthetic materials used in shoes for as long as five days.
Frequently touched surfaces like taps, phone cases, door handles, computer keyboards and toilets should be cleaned using bleach or alcohol solutions of at least 70 percent alcohol.
San Diego family doctor Georgine Nanos told Huffington Post Australia, the likelihood of footwear carrying COVID-19 increases if it has been worn in heavily populated areas, like offices, shopping centres, trains, buses and airports.
A Missouri health advisor Dr Mary E. Schmidt agreed, saying the coronavirus has been shown to live on synthetic surfaces for ‘five days or more’ by studies on materials closely related to shoe fabrics at room temperature.
These claims have been supported by Kansas City public health specialist Carole Winner, who said shoes made with plastic and other synthetic materials can carry active viruses for days.
Ms Winner told HuffPost that;
Shoes should be left in garages or directly inside the front door. The idea is to just not to track them throughout the house.
People who are not working from home and continuing to commute, like “healthcare workers and shop assistants, are advised to use one pair of shoes for any time spent out of the house.”
Shoes made from canvas, soft fabrics or faux leather should be cleaned in the washing machine on a low temperature cycle. Leather shoes or heavy duty work boots should be cleaned by hand with disinfectant wipes.
Shoes should be left outside or directly inside the front door to avoid trekking germs and bacteria collected on trains or buses through the house.
Melbourne environmental scientist Nicole Bijlsma previously warned Daily Mail Australia about the dust and allergens shoes can carry into the home.
She said it’s best to “leave footwear outside or directly inside the door rather than traipsing them through the house.”
But when it comes to virus-proofing your home against COVID-19, Ms Bijlsma said it’s important to draw the line between keeping things clean and over sanitising surfaces.
She however stated that;
It is absolutely justified to disinfect everything in hospital settings and in places where you have high risk individuals, but for most households clinical sanitising will actually reduce bacterial diversity which is counterproductive.
Ms Bijlsma said regularly washing hands, avoiding touching your face, coughing and sneezing into the crook of your elbow instead of your hand are the best defences we have against the rapid spread of coronavirus.