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Here's the Likelihood of Getting Coronavirus From Mail

Men's Health logo Men's Health 4/7/2020 Melissa Matthews
Jeff Castle holding a hotdog in a room: The COVID-19 pandemic raises questions about how you can contract the disease. Here's what you should know about the risk associated with mail and packages. © Tom Merton - Getty Images The COVID-19 pandemic raises questions about how you can contract the disease. Here's what you should know about the risk associated with mail and packages.

Scientists are still learning a lot about the novel coronavirus—including how long it survives on surfaces. And as more people shop online to avoid crowds, some are wondering whether you can catch COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus, from packages and mail.

"It’s a very difficult question to answer," says microbiologist Rodney Rohde, PhD, associate dean for research for the College of Health Professions at Texas State University.

Studies show the virus can survive on surfaces for several days, but there's no evidence that it's transmissible through goods. The novel coronavirus can last up to three days on plastic and 24 hours on cardboard, according to a paper published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

However, lab studies don't reflect real life conditions, Rohde cautions.

Viruses are fragile, meaning they don't hold up well on surfaces—especially when exposed to heat and sunlight. A package may have traces of the coronavirus, but that doesn't mean it's in a quantity strong enough to infect you, says Rohde.

"There is no real good data to mimic every possible angle. It’s just almost impossible to give a 100 percent answer on this," he says.

Still, Rohde estimates that your chances of contracting COVID-19 from packages or mail is very, very, very small.

Experts think the novel coronavirus is mainly spread through respiratory droplets from a cough or sneeze, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

According to Rohde, you're most susceptible to contracting COVID-19 from packages when you interact with a mail carrier. But FedEx, UPS, and the USPS have eliminated signatures to avoid face-to-face interaction.

The best way to reduce your risk of getting sick is by using the method that experts keep touting: soap and water.

"Proper hand washing is so critical," he says.

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