People who are staying home to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus are ordering food, clothes, toiletries, and more to their house instead of going to stores. But some are increasingly worried the corrugated boxes their items are delivered in could be contaminated.
Health experts say its unlikely that anyone could contract the novel coronavirus from a corrugated box because the virus itself can’t live for an extended period of time on hard surfaces. The coronavirus is spread mainly when an infected person coughs or sneezes and spreads virus-containing droplets to another person, so there is very little risk associated with a package dropped off at your home.
“If we had transmission via packages we would have seen immediate global spread out of China early in the outbreak,” said Elizabeth McGraw, Director of the Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics at Pennsylvania State University. “We did not see that and therefore I think the risk is incredibly low.”
“If you want to be extra cautious, you can clean your packages,” said Rachel Graham, an epidemiologist at the University of North Carolina. “There’s evidence the coronavirus can live on certain surfaces for days, but that doesn’t mean you’ll get COVID-19. The amount of the virus that could survive also depends on the material of the surface.”
A new study from the National Institutes of Health found that the coronavirus could last up to three days on plastic and steel, and 24 hours on cardboard. A March 1 study in the Journal of Hospital Infection found that the coronavirus could last up to four days on wood and glass and up to five days on metal, plastic, and ceramic at 68 degrees Fahrenheit.
These periods could be affected by temperature and humidity and the porous nature of surfaces like cardboard, paper money, hair, and fabric. Additionally, shipping conditions make it more difficult for the coronavirus to survive.
“We know that viruses are likely to only live a few hours to a few days under the sort of conditions we expose packages to, including shifts in temperature and humidity,” McGraw said.
According to the CDC website, “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.”
If you want to be extra cautious, clean packages with an alcohol solution before bringing them into your home. An alcohol-based solution can help you disinfect packages if that will help ease any anxiety you have about the virus.
The authors of the Journal of Hospital Infection study suggested using a solution to between 62-71 percent ethanol alcohol. Solutions with 0.5 percent hydrogen peroxide or 0.1 percent sodium hypochlorite are also effective, according to the researchers. Spray the solutions on the package, wait five or six minutes, and then wipe it off.