Can Coronavirus Spread Through The Mail & Infect Your Packages?

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Can Coronavirus Spread Through The Mail & Infect Your Packages?
Health And Wellness

I’ve been taking my weekly commute to the package room in my building pretty seriously since quarantine rules have been put in place. It's one of the few expeditions out of my apartment each week, and sometimes I even change out of sweats for the occasion.

With my newfound online bargain-hunting addiction in full effect, this is one of the few activities I can do from home that gives me any kind of sustained satisfaction. And we can absolutely justify having supplies delivered to our door in the name of social-distancing, right?

But there may be danger lurking on your packages.

Can coronavirus spread through the mail?

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Cheap thrills are short-lived these days after reading a recent study released by The Center for Disease Control (CDC) that states that coronavirus can be detected up to 24 hours on cardboard, and up to 3 days on plastic and stainless steel.

I suddenly felt like the empty Amazon boxes on my apartment floor were taunting me. Was I minimizing social contact and avoiding touching my stairway railings only to potentially contract an infection from the package itself?

The World Health Organization (WHO) was quick to dispel myths surrounding coronavirus following its early outbreak in Wuhan, China.

Responding to the worry that coronavirus could travel from China via packages, WHO clarified via a pamphlet that said, "People receiving packages from China are not at risk of contracting the new coronavirus." WHO also makes an important distinction between the virus’ ability to live on the surfaces, and it actually being transmissible to humans.

In other words, even though, scientifically speaking, coronavirus can live on your cardboard delivery boxes, that doesn’t mean it will make its way into your body. A package and its contents that have been transported and exposed to different temperatures, humidities and other conditions are unlikely to be carrying the virus, even if it was infected in the first place.

Can your mailperson carry the virus?

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But what about your mailman/mailwoman? Isn’t it possible they could be carrying the virus and pass it on while handling the package?

In theory, yes. Since COVID-19 spreads through respiratory droplets in an infected person's cough or sneeze, there is a chance it could still be present on your mail at the point of delivery. And since the primary way the virus spreads is through direct contact, or as close to direct contact as possible, this isn’t an impossible scenario.

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This means there is a chance that the virus could be contracted should you touch your face and mouth after handling your deliveries.

How do you safely handle the mail and packages you receive?

Fortunately for you and your shopping habits, postal services like food delivery providers have been adamant that they are implementing safe and hygienic practices while transporting goods.

USPS released its precautionary measures in an informative memo back in March 2020. The memo urges employees to stay home if they feel sick or are showing any symptoms of the virus.

USPS also mentioned a social distancing policy, urging carriers to maintain a three-to-six-foot distance between themselves and customers whenever possible.

Experts speaking to Health.com have stressed that this shouldn't be the primary concern for people. Amesh Adalja, MD, senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security, said, "I don't believe mail or packages should be a major concern for individuals. This is not going to be a major route of illness."

But if this doesn’t put your mind at ease, maybe try taking matters into your own (sanitized!) hands.

Practice the same hygiene standards you use in the grocery store when handling your mail. Dispose of all packaging and wash your hands diligently after you collect your mail. You could even try using an alcohol-based wipe to safely disinfect your packaging before you take it inside. 

The most important thing is to stay safe, vigilant, and informed.

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Alice Kelly is a writer specializing in lifestyle articles and trending topics.