Guidelines for conservation during the Covid-19 pandemic

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The Canadian Conservation Institute published some guidelines for the conservation of heritage during the Covid-19 pandemic. It thus answers many questions from all those who have collections and heritage assets in their care.

Covid-19 material contamination. Can the Covid-19 virus be transmitted through collection objects or surfaces? According to the World Health Organization (WHO), people can catch Covid-19 by touching contaminated surfaces or objects and then touching their eyes, nose or mouth. If an infected person coughs or exhales towards collection objects or manipulates objects with contaminated hands, the materials of the objects could be contaminated with the virus, which, in theory, could be transmitted to those who handle the pieces later. Since objects tend to be handled infrequently and the virus naturally deactivates outside the human body, the chance of transmission is low. The risk can be greater when people work in historic interiors and use old furniture.

How long does the virus persist on surfaces? The Covid-19 virus has a finite uptime. SARS-CoV-2 is a membrane envelope virus with spikes in glycoproteins. Without interruption by disinfectants, the lipid membranes of two layers that involve microorganisms, including these types of viruses, degrade with drying and exposure to air. As information about Coronavirus persistence is still under development, the guidelines are based on research with previous humans. It was found that the SARS-CoV virus lost most of the infectivity for 6 days and all the infectivity for 9 days at room temperature. This conservative estimate of persistence, from one week to 9 days, is likely to remain a recommendation until further SARS-CoV-2 tests are performed. Influence of contaminants and surface characteristics on viral persistence. The research examines materials added to suspensions and tests on a dry virus surface to measure its effect on persistence. The proteins stabilized viruses on dry surfaces, extending persistence significantly by decreasing degradation. Viruses mixed with contaminants are most often tested on materials representative of the hospital surface, as there is a high cause for concern about infection in hospital environments. Metals (stainless steel and copper are common test coupons) exhibit some differences in persistence and may overlap with organic porous substrates (paper, cardboard, fabric). To be continued…

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