A hot potato: With the number of cases rising, more people outside of China are becoming concerned about the coronavirus. One question that’s being asked is: can the virus be carried on packages shipped directly from the country?
While such a scenario was part of a Simpsons episode from 1993, in which “Osaka Flu” traveled from Japan to Springfield after a factory worker coughed into a package, there are genuine fears that something similar could happen with the coronavirus.
While the answer isn’t 100 percent definite, it seems the risk of the virus surviving a long trip from China on the surface of a package is extremely low. There is still a lot about 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) that’s unknown, but according to the CDC, a lot of the information comes from previous coronaviruses that cause severe illnesses in people: MERS and SARS.
“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. 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,” states the agency’s coronavirus FAQ site.
Dr. Amesh A. Adalja, Senior Scholar, Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, reaffirmed the CDC’s findings. “The temperature of the air surrounding the packages and projects during shipping is not considered conducive to viral viability,” he told Tom’s Hardware. “Overnight packages are not how this virus will transmit, and I think the concern is completely misplaced.”
It’s not all good news, though. Work published in the Journal of Hospital Infection (via Forbes) states that coronaviruses such as SARS and MERS can live on surfaces for between four and five days, but some could survive for up to nine days outside of the body at room temperature. However, these are sensitive to disinfectants containing alcohol, sodium hydroxide, and sodium hypochlorite, and they can be removed from a surface in 60 seconds. It’s expected that the disinfecting process will have a similar effect on 2019-nCoV.
With the coronavirus causing delayed products (possibly the Xbox Series X and PS5), MWC’s cancelation, and a fall in smartphone shipments, it’s no surprise that people are being very cautious, but refusing to order your PC parts from China is probably a step too far.