Are packages from coronavirus-hit China safe to handle?

As the deadly coronavirus continues to spread across the world, you may be wondering: Do imported goods from China pose a health risk?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on its website warns human coronaviruses most commonly spread through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes, close contact with an infected person (shaking hands, for example), but also by touching an object or surface that has been exposed to the virus, then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes with dirty hands.

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But no need to fret, experts told Fox News. It’s unlikely the virus will survive the journey from China to your front door.

Experts say to not be worried about the virus living on packages from China.

Experts say to not be worried about the virus living on packages from China. (iStock)

“The virus on materials they ordered would not survive such a trip. Outside the body, we believe this virus only survives on [an] object minutes to an hour or so, not the days it takes your goods to travel the globe,”  Patricia A. Stinchfield, vice president of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID), told Fox News in an email. “As always after handling things, wash your hands before touching your eyes, nose or mouth.”

A package from China takes at least three days to arrive in California, The Denver Post, citing UPS and FedEx estimates, reported. Though scientists are still working to understand the novel virus, it is closely related to SARS, which can live on surfaces for about two days, according to a 2003 University of Minnesota study. Separately, in an analysis of 22 studies on other human coronaviruses —  such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), and endemic human coronaviruses (HCoV) — researchers found the viruses can “persist on inanimate surfaces like metal, glass or plastic for up to nine days.” More specifically, the viruses can remain infectious on such materials between “two hours up to nine days,” according to the paper published in The Journal of Hospital Infection. 

Dr. William Schaffner, the medical director of the NFID, echoed Stinchfield. He noted that while touching surfaces infected with the virus can be a way to transmit it, this method is “a minor one in comparison to respiratory transmission." "Frequent handwashing” is important in preventing illness in general, he added.

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The novel coronavirus that’s to blame for the illnesses began at a live animal and seafood market in the Chinese city of Wuhan and has since spread to dozens of countries around the world — including the United States, where at least nine people have died, all in Washington State. The death toll from the virus increased to 3,198 early Wednesday, with more than 93,000 people infected globally.

Though federal health officials have maintained that the risk to the public is low, there are still a few things you can do to keep yourself as healthy as possible — which you can check out here.