With coronavirus continuing to spread from China – and 11 confirmed US cases – many Americans are fearful of getting sick.
And in an age when you can order anything from anywhere in the world, some are worried that the disease may be lurking on surfaces such as on packages shipped from China.
So can you contract coronavirus from a parcel? The simple answer: most likely not.
Both federal health agencies and infectious disease experts say the virus will not live long on mailed packages and that you are much more likely to catch it from a person rather than a surface.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explains on its website that it’s very unlikely to contract coronavirus from a surface.
While a person can carry the virus for days – or even weeks – viruses don’t live long outside the body.
This means that if the virus is found on a surface, the lifespan is ‘in the range of hours,’ according to the CDC.
And because packages go through several different environments before ending up on a doorstep, that makes them less likely to have survived.
Additionally, Dr Elizabeth McGraw, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics at Pennsylvania State University says that a cardboard box is not a good breeding ground for germs.
‘What we know about these viruses is that they don’t last very long on surfaces, and that’s particularly the case for a very porous surface’ such as cardboard, she told NPR.
What’s more, there are currently no cases – in or outside of the US – known to have come from handling packages.
‘There is likely very low risk of spread from products or packaging that are shipped’ from China, the CDC writes on its website.
The agency says it’s most concerned about ‘respiratory droplets,’ which are spread when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
Health experts recommend taking precautions such a washing hands with warm water and soap and coughing or sneezing into an elbow – rather than a hand – to prevent the spread of germs.
Since the outbreak began in December 2019, 99 percent of cases have been in China and mostly in Wuhan, which is where the virus originated.
So far, more than 17,200 people worldwide have been infected with coronavirus and 360 people have died.
There are 11 confirmed cases in the US including six in California, two in Illinois and one each in Arizona, Massachusetts and Washington.
On Thursday evening, the US State Department issued a Level 4 travel alert, its highest warning, advising Americans ‘do not travel to China.’
Aside from China and the US, cases have been confirmed in Australia, Cambodia, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Italy, Japan, Macau, Malaysia, Nepal, the Philippines, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Taiwan, Thailand, the UK, the United Arab Emirates and Vietnam.