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Can You Get Coronavirus From a Package?

can you get coronavirus from a package

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Whether you’re shopping for PC upgrades or the latest tech deals, working from home or are just avoiding the outside, chances are you’ll have to check your mail. With the pandemic that is COVID-19, you may wondering if packages sent from Amazon, Newegg, around the world or even within the U.S. 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 companies themselves are trying to address this. There’s also been a recent wave of emails from retailers detailing precautions they’re taking regarding coronavirus, while encouraging people to shop while stuck at home. But is this really a good idea? 

According to Dr. Amesh A. Adalja, Senior Scholar, Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, there's no reason to worry about packages shipped from China or anywhere else outside of the U.S.

“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 or domestically 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.” 

Experts say you shouldn’t worry about getting coronavirus from a package.   (Image credit: The WHO)

Recent research reported on by MIT Technology Review found that 2019-nCov can live on a cardboard box for at least 24 hours. The researchers, Vincent Munster and a team at the National Institutes of Health virology laboratory in Hamilton, Montana, sprayed the virus on common materials to see how long the surface remained contaminated. “After waiting a few hours or days, they wiped the surfaces and checked to see if they could still infect cells in a petri dish,” MIT Technology Review reported.

The publication specifically mentioned Amazon packages and “plastic cell phone cases” as being areas to which 2019-nCov could “cling.” However, it noted that we still need more studies before we fully understand how COVID-19 spreads. There’s no proof that it can spread through inanimate objects.

This message is echoed by the CDC, which is using 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.

Other surfaces tested by Munster and his researchers include stainless steel and plastic, which both were contaminated after three days with the possibility remaining that it could last on those two surfaces for even longer.  

SARS, MERS and HCoV, a third type of coronavirus, 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 detailed in The Journal of Hospital Infection and reported on by Forbes

Disinfecting inanimate surfaces seems simple. The WHO 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 Journal of Hospital Infection researchers said 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 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. 

Editor's note: A version of this article was originally published on February 12, 2020 and updated on March 16, 2020 with new research. 

  • Zizo007
    Coronavirus didn't change anything for me. I still order from China. The virus lives some hours, 2 days max on objects and food. Items I order from China take 1-2 months to arrive so 0 risk there.
    Reply
  • mac_angel
    That article is both true and false.
    It is true that these packages, while in transit, are not viable hosts for transmitting the disease, that is only a direct answer for point A to point B. The corona virus can last on surfaces for some time, and infected people do not show symptoms for a few days. So, you would also have to consider how many other points of contact that package has had along the way. It may leave China infected, and may reach the customer fine, but think about how many it could infect along the way. And then those people that are infected, handling packages, hundreds, even thousands.
    I'm not trying to be one to say everyone needs to panic. But people should be aware of everything and take precautions accordingly. Not read some article that says packages cannot contain the virus from point A to point B without considering all the other points of contact.
    Wash your hands, use Lysol wipes/spray.
    Reply
  • mchldpy
    What mac_angel said.
    All these test seem to have a common theme,
    "We expect the same results from this new Coronavirus"
    or
    "From the way past strains of the Coronavirus acted we feel the chances of this strain behaving any different is not very likely."

    Fact is it's speculation, educated guesswork at best. These things can mutate and don't feel the need to inform the Healthcare Community.
    It takes very little effort to use precautions.
    Reply
  • mchldpy
    admin said:
    We asked a doctor if you should worry about packages containing coronavirus.

    Can You Get Coronavirus From a Package? : Read more
    It looks like it may not matter.
    TODAY
    A respected Dr in France (can't remember his name) just completed a documented, peer reviewed test on 40 infected patients using "Cloroquine" a Malaria treatment drug in use for 50 years and reported 100% positive results. There are a few people already using the drug in trials in hospitals in the USA. The drug stops the virus from entering the human cell then affects 1 of the 2 enzymes that enable it to replicate, essentially ending it's ability to infect and multiply. It looks like we might make it through this despite Trump.

    March 24, 2020
    CORRECTION -
    After hearing conflicting news reports on the aforementioned HydroxyChloroquine (brand name Plaquenil) and Azithromycin mixture testing I found an excert from Professor Dr Didier Raoult M.D/Ph.D (the Dr who did the test in Southern France) the number of patients that recieved the mixture was 6 out of the total tested and the rest recieved straight Plaquenil.
    I've seen differing news reports depending on the news agency and differing written accounts since initially hearing the news story.
    Reply
  • Zizo007
    mchldpy said:
    It looks like it may not matter.
    TODAY
    A respected Dr in France (can't remember his name) just completed a documented, peer reviewed test on 40 infected patients using "Cloroquine" a Malaria treatment drug in use for 50 years and reported 100% positive results. There are a few people already using the drug in trials in hospitals in the USA. The drug stops the virus from entering the human cell then affects 1 of the 2 enzymes that enable it to replicate, essentially ending it's ability to infect and multiply. It looks like we might make it through this despite Trump.
    Are you sure 100% were healed? Where did you read this? I read 50% healed from what I can remember.
    Reply
  • mchldpy
    I didn't read anything I was watching world news (just now) and a doctor just told about the french doctor's test.
    Reply
  • mchldpy
    Just heard more info on the Cloroquine testing. Three Countries have done testing, France was the latest.
    It's a 2-part concoction that worked the best, Cloroquine and a current bacterial killing, anti-inflammatory used on walking pneumonia and bronchitis but when used together it has an affect on this viral-based infection. It performed better than Cloroquine by itself. It completely killed the CoVid virus in all cases in 6 days and in some cases as little as 3 days. The Doctor I referenced in the first post said he thought our biggest hurdle in using this widespread would be from the FDA. I did see Trump on TV earlier saying he had instructed the FDA to cut the red tape and make it happen. I don't believe much that comes from him.
    I did hear this latest Dr say that currently Doctors can prescribe Cloroquine (and some are) but I got the impression that the French results using both drugs in unison were too new (like today maybe) but Doctors could prescribe the mixture and each result could then be forwarded to the FDA and that might satisfy and expedite their qualification/testing process.
    The other hopeful remedy/cure was taking plasma from previously infected patients and treating new patients but it was in "Phase 3" testing and couldn't bypass the FDA process as fast as this one could. The drug Cloroquine and H. Cloroquine are generic drugs (no Patents and/or Trademarks to hinder manufacturing) and just need somebody to step up and agree to do it.

    fingers crossed
    Reply
  • mchldpy
    Zizo007 said:
    Are you sure 100% were healed? Where did you read this? I read 50% healed from what I can remember.
    I think what you are referring to was the testing done by the 2 Countries where Cloroquine was used by itself and was prior to the French test (which just concluded a couple of days ago) that used Cloroquine and another drug in unison and killed the virus in all 40 patients within 6 days, some as little as 3 days.

    See Correction/Update at the bottom of Post #5.
    Reply
  • sl0j0n
    admin said:
    We asked a doctor if you should worry about packages containing coronavirus.

    Can You Get Coronavirus From a Package? : Read more
    Here's what they said in the video 'bout 'how long does it live'.
    Hours on "soft surfaces", days on "hard surfaces".
    But what you have to watch out for is CONTACT from humans.
    What if the delivery person has the virus?
    Then you could get it from them.
    I suggest that everyone wipe all mail & packages w/ alcohol.
    Or Lysol which kills coronaviruses.
    BTW, we all need to use this tech tip to treat masks.
    < https://www.nature.com/articles/srep39956 >
    The "virus deactivation system" makes masks reusable.
    Have a GREAT day, Neighbor!
    Reply
  • mchldpy
    at sl0j0n,
    Thanks for the article. Although from 2017 and not tested on the CoVid19 pandemic, this was NOT written for the average or above average layperson.
    There is a pre-soak prep before the actual soaking and drying is done. Note that these were disc-shaped cutouts of the polypropylene (the middle layer of a 3 layer mask) used in the experiment. You have to modify the procedure to make it usable for humans as a filter add-on.
    You state "We all need to use this tech tip to treat masks". Do you know how to do this or have you found anywhere that actually explains how to do this?
    Thanks
    Reply