No shoes in the house: Study shows coronavirus could travel on bottom of soles

50% of soles of shoes from ICU medical staff tested positive for coronavirus, according to swab results

A doctor disinfects his shoes as he leaves the ICU unit of Rome's San Filippo Neri Hospital's Covid department, in Rome, Thursday, April 9, 2020. The new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people, but for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini) (Andrew Medichini, Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

A new study out of Wuhan, China found that the coronavirus is widely distributed on the floors of hospitals treating COVID-19 patients. While concentrations of the virus were highest in ICU wards, general wards (even those not treating coronavirus patients) showed positive testing results too.

News 6 partner WJXT reports that researchers said compared to floor samples of other viruses, the rate of positivity for COVID-19 was relatively high. In the study, the authors theorized this is the case because of gravity and airflow causing most virus droplets to float to the ground.

The study also found as medical staff walks around the ward, the virus can be tracked all over the floor, as indicated by the 100% rate of positivity from the floor in the pharmacy, where there were no patients.

Half of the samples from the soles of the ICU medical staff shoes tested positive. As a result, researchers concluded the soles of medical staff shoes might function as carriers.

In the study’s publication in the Emerging Infectious Diseases Journal, the authors highly recommended that persons disinfect shoe soles before walking out of wards containing COVID-19 patients.

The study examined two hospitals in Wuhan, China from February 19 to March 2. The researchers collected samples from indoor air, floors, shoes, computer mice, trashcans, sickbed handrails, personal protective equipment (PPE), and other surfaces.

Keep in mind, the study was only conducted at hospitals and not standard community environments such as grocery stores or homes, so the results are only limited to that type of setting.

Although the findings of the study were posted on the CDC’s site, a note at the bottom indicates that the conclusions do not necessarily reflect the agency’s opinion.

Though the results are limited in nature, it doesn’t hurt to take precautions against whatever germs could be on the bottom of your shoes.

Troy Daland, the CEO of Durisan, which makes hand sanitizer and antimicrobial soap, offered the following tips to reduce the risk of contamination:

1. Use shoes you can easily sanitize to safeguard you against the coronavirus when shopping for groceries or picking up medications. There are one-piece molded shoes from brands such as Crocs and Floafers that can be sanitized using disinfectant house cleaners.

2. As you arrive home, take your shoes off and leave them outside for the sanitization properties of the UV rays from the sun. Although UV rays are likely not strong enough to kill the virus, it does provide some property of disinfecting.

3. If shoes cannot be outside, spray your shoes with a good sanitizer or wipe them with a sanitizing wipe to eliminate microbes.

4. If your shoes are machine washable, wash with a good disinfectant soap. You can also clean them with hot water and soap if they are not machine washable.

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