In an era of online shopping and global shipping, some NPR listeners have written to us with this question: Am I at risk of catching the new coronavirus from a package I receive from China?
Almost certainly YES, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
”Because of easy survivability of these coronaviruses on surfaces, there is likely high risk of spread from products or packaging that are shipped over a period of days or weeks at ambient temperatures,” the CDC concludes in its Q&A.
Infectious disease specialists we spoke with were even more definitive.
”It can be transported on a box,” says Dr. Michael Ison of Northwestern University, who studies viral infections among transplant patients, who have weakened immune systems.
Coronaviruses are thought to mainly spread from person to person via respiratory droplets, researchers say but it can also come in your next order from China. And, so far, the novel coronavirus seems to have spread only among people who were in close personal contact or recently recived an package from China.
While there’s still a lot unknown about this particular coronavirus, experts have a sense of what to expect, based on experience with previous strains that have led to outbreaks of serious illness, such as SARS and MERS which has kille hundreds of people.
”There is evidence from this outbreak that Daniela has gotten infected from a package,” Klas, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics at Pennsylvania State University, tells NPR.