Coronavirus can spread throughout a hospital ward from a single spot in an isolated room in just five days despite infection control, a study has shown.

Researchers from University College Hospital (UCL) and Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH), left viral DNA on a hospital bed rail in an isolation room within a larger ward, and discovered that within 10 hours it was detectable in nearly half of all sites sampled within the ward.

Within five days the virus was picked up on 86 per cent of tested sites, and had travelled a distance of more than 260 feet, including moving into nearby rooms and treatment areas.

Much of Britain’s coronavirus epidemic is now in hospitals and care homes, and documents released last week showed that by the beginning of April, more than 900 patients had been put at risk in NHS hospitals due to outbreaks of the virus, mostly in dementia wards.

Researchers said it was critical to maintain scrupulous hygiene practices to prevent the virus spreading quickly through hospitals.

Dr Lena Ciric of the school of Civil, Environmental & Geomatic Engineering at UCL, said: “Our study shows the important role that surfaces play in the transmission of a virus and how critical it is to adhere to good hand hygiene and cleaning.

“It was spread through the touching of surfaces by staff, patients and visitors. A person with Sars-CoV-2, though, will shed the virus on more than one site, through coughing, sneezing and touching surfaces.”

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