In this article, we’ll give you some information about what the risks of receiving packages from China could be by providing answers to some coronavirus FAQs…
Many of our clients have been asking for us advice surrounding the ‘Novel Coronavirus Pneumonia’ epidemic happening in China since December 2019. Their concerns often center around safety, particularly about whether it’s safe to even receive goods and packages from China right now.
What the WHO and US CDC currently say…
The World Health Organization says clearly there is no risk (“People receiving packages are not at risk of contracting the new coronavirus.”). And they add: “It is still not known how long the 2019-nCoV virus survives on surfaces, although preliminary information suggests the virus may survive for a few hours.”
The US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) conveys essentially the same message on their FAQ page.
However, as our friend Sal Orozco from EPower pointed out, it seems like Amazon is seeing risk and taking appropriate measures…
Coronavirus FAQs related to package safety
We asked a few questions to Annie, one of our consultants, who holds a BA in biotechnology and an MSc in Food Production Safety, as well as 10 years of working experience in microbiology (including in a company that sold testing kits for SARS). She has produced the following coronavirus FAQs and information to provide some clarity on safety.
How can the virus remain active over time in a work environment or in a package?
There are usually 2 ways a virus remains dangerous:
- The virus can be hosted by bacteria. What needs to be done is to kill those bacteria, and at that point, the virus will be without a host. It can still be active for a duration of time on its own, but not for as long.
- The live virus is on a surface alone, without a host.
How long is this new virus active when it is on a surface, without a host?
There has been no conclusive research yet about how long this new coronavirus can still be active in the environment. It depends on many factors (temperature, pH, body, fluid, attached surface…).
The closest virus that was studied recently is SARS, therefore it might be fair to consider the findings about SARS when we want to know more about the Wuhan Coronavirus.
As a comparison, how long does the SARS virus remain active?
“Preliminary studies in some research laboratories suggest that the virus may survive in the environment for several days. The length of time that the virus survives likely depends on a number of factors. These factors could include the type of material or body fluid containing the virus and various environmental conditions such as temperature, pH or humidity.”
The new studies, conducted at network labs in Hong Kong, Japan, and Germany confirm, as anticipated, that the SARS virus can survive after drying on plastic surfaces for up to 48 hours. Ongoing studies are testing virus stability on additional surfaces, with initial results expected by Wednesday.
(Reminder: the new virus that has recently spread in Wuhan is different from SARS, therefore these data are only provided for reference and possible comparison.)
What is the most important information to know to assure that packages being shipped are safe for the recipient?
The most important safety factor is to avoid bodily fluids (saliva, faeces, etc.) coming into contact with the packages – this was the case for SARS and I can suspect it is also relevant when considering ‘nCoV 2019.’
- Scientists have also tested the SARS virus survival times in faeces. Research conducted at one Hong Kong lab determined that the virus can survive in faeces for at least 2 days, and in urine for at least 24 hours. Studies conducted at a second Hong Kong lab found that virus in faeces taken from patients suffering from diarrhoea, which has a lower acidity than normal stools, could survive for 4 days. This raises the possibility that surfaces contaminated with faeces from patients suffering from diarrhoea might survive for as long as 4 days. However, the dose of virus needed to cause infection remains unknown. Further studies are needed before firm conclusions about the role of faecal-oral transmission can be made.
Could humid products or humid packaging materials pose risks to overseas buyers?
In case of a package sent by air to a consumer in 3 days, based on the information known as this is written, one can’t rule out a risk of infection.
Note that bacteria can survive in a humid environment and can host a virus (which remains active).
All the precautions usually taken to reduce the risk of mold in packages applies here. See our in-depth guide on the topic of mold prevention.
Therefore, low-risk products and packaging are those that have no moisture/humidity. Adhering to good hand-hygiene habits will also be useful for buyers receiving packages.
Is there a way to kill the nCoV 2019 virus? Would UV lights do that?
Since a virus needs a host (bacteria) to stay active, all disinfection methods that kill bacteria are helpful.
The virus probably cannot remain active alone in the environment for too long, as explained above.
Generally speaking, a virus is not affected by UV lights (which are microwave energy).
However, in 2018, research showed UVC light could render the flu virus inactive. UVC light is part of the ultraviolet light spectrum and emits a high frequency of UV light that makes it extremely effective at killing bacteria, mold, and other pathogens. Killing bacteria with UV light requires the use of germicidal wavelengths.
“Researchers reveal that far ultraviolet C (far-UVC) light can kill flu viruses without negatively affecting human tissues. The researchers suggest that implementing this far-UVC light in places like hospitals, airports, and schools could greatly reduce the incidence of flu infections.”
Coronavirus FAQs surrounding the safe use of face masks
How long are people supposed to wear the standard 3-layer facial masks or N95 masks?
Not more than 8 hours, and ideally less. And, if it is moist or the user is in a high-risk environment, the mask should be changed more often.
A side note: the N95 mask makes it hard to breathe, and one may start to feel dizzy after wearing it for 3 hours.
What are the most common mistakes people make when wearing a mask?
- Hands are not sanitized before touching the mask
- Touching the surface of the mask (only handle it by the strings)
- Wearing the mask upside down or inside out
- Touching one’s eyes with hands
- Not washing hands with soap
While this information may be worrying, due to the length of time that it takes even air freight to reach foreign countries from China, it appears that the risk of infection from packages shipped from China is low.
If the packages have become moist before shipping and have remained moist or been affected by humidity in transit, the risk may be higher.
Therefore, it’s important to remember to wash hands thoroughly and often, especially when handling packages that may be affected by moisture of some kind.
Do you have any other coronavirus FAQs to add? Let us know in the comments, please.
We are not lawyers. What we wrote above is based only on our understanding of the matter. We do not present this information as a basis for you to make decisions, and we do not accept any liability if you do so. Please consult a lawyer before taking action.
Still have questions or concerns about coronavirus?
If you’re concerned about travelling to China, but need to find a supplier (yes, factories are operating), read this post: Identifying & Vetting New Chinese Suppliers During the Coronavirus Epidemic in Early 2020
Sofeast is at work, so if you have questions, why not contact us and ask them? We will give the most up-to-date information possible from the ground here in China.