Whether you're shopping for PC upgrades or taking advantage of the latest tech deals, you'll find that many products are shipped directly from China, even if you've ordered them via Amazon or Newegg. With 2019-nCov coronavirus causing a worldwide panic, you might be wondering if your electronics could carry infectious germs with them.
We’ve seen Reddit users question if shipments from China could pack more than shoppers asked for, and even Chinese companies themselves are trying to address these concerns. But according to Dr. Amesh A. Adalja, Senior Scholar, Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, there's no way that coronavirus could infect a package and no reason to worry.
“The temperature of the air surrounding the packages and projects during shipping is not considered conducive to viral viability,” he told Tom’s Hardware.
Even if you have a package shipped overnight from China, experts believe you have nothing to worry about.
“I suspect that even with overnight shipping, the transit conditions are not conducive to the virus remaining viable, given that it takes a special combination of environmental conditions for a virus to remain viable (lack of UV exposure, specific temperatures, specific humidity, et cetera) that is not readily achieved in shipping,” Adalja explained. “Overnight packages are not how this virus will transmit, and I think the concern is completely misplaced.”
His comments echo sentiments shared by the CDC, which says that it can use the behaviors of SARS and MERA, two other types of Coronavirus, as guidance for 2019-nCoV.
“In general, because of poor survivability of these coronaviruses on surfaces, there is likely very low risk of spread from products or packaging that are shipped over a period of days or weeks at ambient temperatures,” the CDC’s FAQ page says.
“Coronaviruses are generally thought to be spread most often by respiratory droplets. Currently there is no evidence to support transmission of 2019-nCoV associated with imported goods and there have not been any cases of 2019-nCoV in the United States associated with imported goods,” the CDC writes.
Keep in mind that there is more than one type of coronavirus. SARS, MERS and HCoV, for example, have been shown to live on “inanimate surfaces, including metal, glass and plastic, for as many as nine days, but can be disinfected within one minute,” as recently detailed in The Journal of Hospital Infection and reported on by Forbes.
Although we can suspect that 2019-nCoV could survive in similar conditions, there is no hard evidence currently, and these conditions aren’t the same as those an air-shipped package would endure.
Additionally, disinfecting these inanimate surfaces seems simple. The report cites The WHO, which says disinfection is as easy as “thoroughly cleaning environmental surfaces with water and detergent and applying commonly used hospital-level disinfectants (such as sodium hypochlorite).” And, again, that process can take just 60 seconds. The researchers added that they “expect a similar effect against the 2019-nCoV.”
Even with the amount of uncertainty related to 2019-nCoV, Adalja asserted that there is no reason to hold off on shopping, even if if you think you're just being extra cautious.
“There is much damage being done by overreaction to this outbreak. We know a lot about coronaviruses in general and can extrapolate this knowledge to the novel coronavirus,” he said.
Meanwhile, the China Post, China's postal service, is disinfecting all of its postal offices, cars and processing centers, the Associated Press reported this week. Not surprisingly, China Post also reiterated that 2019-nCoV does"not survive for long on objects. It is therefore safe to receive postal items from China."
Editor's note: This article was originally published on February 12, 2020.