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Can you get the coronavirus from packages sent in the mail?

According to officials: It's highly unlikely.

Updated

Cardboard boxes on front porch of a house

An outbreak of COVID-19 has had people across the nation ordering household supplies in bulk to prepare for a quarantine situation. But is ordering online safer than venturing out to a store?

The new coronavirus spreads through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Some wonder if it’s possible to pick up the virus from a package handled by an infected warehouse worker or delivery person.

US government studies showed the virus can live up to three days on plastic and stainless steel and one day on cardboard. But the risk of contracting COVID-19 from a package is extremely low, health officials say.

Although the virus can live on plastic for 72 hours, shipping conditions would make it difficult for the virus to survive in transit, according to the CDC. Both World Health Organization (WHO) and CDC note it’s safe to receive packages in the mail regardless of their origin.

While you could pick up the virus if respiratory droplets from an infected person were on your package, officials say this is unlikely.

“If a delivery person is dropping off a package and is infected, there is a conceivable risk of transmitting a virus if he/she coughs or sneezes on the package. This is an exceedingly low risk to the consumer,” said Dr. Christopher Cirino, a board-certified clinical infectious diseases expert and public health officer in Oregon. “Your chances of getting anything from a package would be greatest if the delivery person had COVID-19 and sneezed on it before handing it over to you.”

What you can do

If you’re still concerned, you can take precautions with each package you receive. While Cirino notes some viruses can remain active for a couple days, he adds: “Fortunately, they are easy to wipe off with alcohol-based solutions, diluted bleach and other cleaning solutions.”

Disinfect parcels with an alcohol-based wipe before opening and consider wearing gloves. Wash your hands thoroughly after handling packages.

Photo credit: Getty images

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