Detection of SARS-CoV-2 on Surfaces in Households of Persons with COVID-19

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021 Aug 2;18(15):8184. doi: 10.3390/ijerph18158184.


SARS-CoV-2 transmission from contaminated surfaces, or fomites, has been a concern during the COVID-19 pandemic. Households have been important sites of transmission throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, but there is limited information on SARS-CoV-2 contamination of surfaces in these settings. We describe environmental detection of SARS-CoV-2 in households of persons with COVID-19 to better characterize the potential risks of fomite transmission. Ten households with ≥1 person with laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 and with ≥2 members total were enrolled in Utah, U.S.A. Nasopharyngeal and anterior nasal swabs were collected from members and tested for the presence of SARS-CoV-2 by RT-PCR. Fifteen surfaces were sampled in each household and tested for presence and viability of SARS-CoV-2. SARS-CoV-2 RNA was detected in 23 (15%) of 150 environmental swab samples, most frequently on nightstands (4/6; 67%), pillows (4/23; 17%), and light switches (3/21; 14%). Viable SARS-CoV-2 was cultured from one sample. All households with SARS-CoV-2-positive surfaces had ≥1 person who first tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 ≤ 6 days prior to environmental sampling. SARS-CoV-2 surface contamination occurred early in the course of infection when respiratory transmission is most likely, notably on surfaces in close, prolonged contact with persons with COVID-19. While fomite transmission might be possible, risk is low.

Keywords: SARS-CoV-2; fomite transmission; household transmission; prevention.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19*
  • Fomites
  • Humans
  • Pandemics
  • RNA, Viral
  • SARS-CoV-2*


  • RNA, Viral