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Can You Get Coronavirus From a Package Shipped From China?

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

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.” 

(Image credit: The WHO)

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. 

  • tennis2
    Ha! I just thought about this (can you get CV from...) last night as I opened a newly purchased bag of frozen China fish.
    Reply
  • Mr.Vegas
    tennis2 said:
    Ha! I just thought about this (can you get CV from...) last night as I opened a newly purchased bag of frozen China fish.
    Yoll die from the fish, never eat anything made or produced in china
    Reply
  • Zizo007
    That scares me, I always order from China using AliExpress.
    Reply
  • bit_user
    Heh, even though I'm not so concerned, I did set aside a recently arrived package that was drop-shipped from China (when I bought the item on ebay, I didn't know it would be, but half-suspected so).

    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
    That's about what I think I recall for flu virus. Interestingly, its longevity on rough surfaces, such as wood (I assume they mean unfinished) and fabric was far shorter - I forget it if was a couple days or a couple hours, but somewhere in that range.
    Reply
  • digitalgriffin
    I have 4 packages incoming from amazon, all made in china. Im leaving them in the garage by a window and putting my uv lamp on them. After 2 weeks Im then wiping down everything with chlorox wipes while wearing gloves.

    But then im a little paranoid with two young boys just getting over pneumonia from early january. Ive also stocked up on frozen veggies, a giant ham stock, eggs, peanut butter, and Campbell's soup, zinc, and motrin. Enough to last us 30 days. If I don't need it, it wont go bad.

    Btw: your expert either misquoted or is wrong. UV kills viruses. It doesnt support them.
    Reply
  • King_V
    digitalgriffin said:
    Btw: your expert either misquoted or is wrong. UV kills viruses. It doesnt support them.

    I interpreted that phrasing to mean that lack of UV exposure is required for survival of the virus.
    Reply
  • punkncat
    I would start by saying that the level of concern over this virus, where not fully unwarranted, is being well overblown by the media circus. With that said there have been a great deal of articles discussing the lack of understanding within the medical community about exactly how this is transferred (contact, airborne, etc.) and how long it stays viable in the environment. The above article expresses it's lack of concern based on general known attributes of "viral viability". It gives us a good idea of what we could expect but in light of a full understanding of it's properties it can't hurt to be cautious.

    IMO, if there was and REAL danger of this infection spreading via mail then transference of said would already be stopped. Just the same, probably wouldn't hurt to spray everything with Lysol and wash your hands after receiving.....lol.
    Reply
  • Jake Hall
    Yes
    Reply
  • tennis2
    This past weekend, I had 4 people Googling: what is corona virus, is it deadly, symptoms, etc. The best we could come up with was that it's not very deadly but similar to the flu. Living in the world of emotional media....
    Reply
  • digitalgriffin
    tennis2 said:
    This past weekend, I had 4 people Googling: what is corona virus, is it deadly, symptoms, etc. The best we could come up with was that it's not very deadly but similar to the flu. Living in the world of emotional media....

    100,000+ people infected in China's one province really isn't the problem. It's the fact it's HIGHLY contagious, and the death rate has been rising steadily from 2%. The fact that China will not let the CDC inside the most infected areas means China is hiding something. And this would be par for the coarse where incidents of embarrassing national incidents occur. This is why China scrubs a number of results from internal searches like Tibet sterilization, imprisonment, child labor, organ harvesting from inmates, death rates of inmates, human rights violations, and Tenement Square incident. The list goes on and on. China hides whatever makes it look bad.

    Now I attribute most of the increase in death rate is occurring due to lack of adequate medical care being available. But if the virus is highly as contagious as they are saying it could be (N0 = 2), then it could quickly overrun any country's medical resources.

    Will it hurt to be more cautious? Nope. Should you panic? Nope.

    My son had his heart set on going to the Aquarium for his birthday. I had to tell him "No, we'll pick someplace different and go when things settle down a bit." Last place I want to be is a place pack full of kids sticking their hands in common water sources, with this winter being bad with RSA as it is. If nCorona breaks out, all bets are off for public places.

    I bought a gas powered backup generator not because I expect to use it, but incase I do need to use it. I have a backup sump pump because I don't expect to need it, but I do have it incase I do. (In fact, my main sump has failed 4 times in 15 years) I have a backup ups for my modem and wireless AP because I don't expect to need it. But with power emergencies, it may be my only communication to the outside world.
    Reply