New Zealand reported the first case of COVID-19 in more than 100 days on Tuesday. It is possible that the virus has arrived through imported food packages.
Health officials say the new outbreak could be linked to these frozen items as one of the infected patients worked at a store that ordered the items from abroad, Reuters reported on Thursday.
Chinese officials reported similar news this week: Traces of the virus were found on packages of frozen shrimp and chicken wings imported from Ecuador and Brazil, respectively.
According to NBC News, the municipal health committee in Shenzhen, where officials discovered contaminated chicken wings, warned residents to “be cautious about buying imported frozen meat and seafood products.”; in recent days”.
But experts say the chance of getting COVID-19 from frozen foods is very small.
“Maybe, but this virus is not very stable outside the human body,” Caitlin Howell, a chemical and biomedical engineer at the University of Maine, told Business Insider.
She added, “freezing or freezing the virus can help prolong the infection time, which is why we think outbreaks in meat packaging plants happen so often, but transmission through surfaces seems to be rare – even when the surfaces are frozen or frozen. “
So far, the Shenzhen Medical Commission reports that no one who comes into contact with frozen food products tested positive for COVID-19.
You may not have to worry about touching frozen food
The coronavirus has been detected by Chinese health officials in the past. The frozen seafood packages shipped by a foreign ship to Yantai also contain traces of the virus, NBC News reported. (The origin of those packages is unknown.) They also found coronavirus on imported frozen foods in Dalian, Xiamen and Pingxiang last month.
But those findings aren’t a concern, says Michael Ryan, executive director of the World Health Organization’s Health Emergency Program.
Ryan said at a news conference on Thursday: “There is no evidence that a food or food chain is involved in transmitting this virus, and that everyone should feel comfortable and feel safe. . or processing and delivering food. “
According to the WHO report, China has checked several hundred thousand packaging samples and less than 10 samples have positive results.
According to Rachel Graham, an epidemiologist at the University of North Carolina, it’s because the virus – if it gets on such packages – can hardly survive the time it takes to ship the goods from there. go elsewhere, says Rachel Graham, an epidemiologist at the University of North Carolina.
“Even if it freezes, on a surface like that, you will see the virus get wet and dry, which makes it completely non-infectious,” Graham told Business Insider, co. time adds that “freezing” can also kill it.
Furthermore, she said, there is a possibility that Chinese officials have detected an RNA virus on the packages, which does not pose a major threat.
“While RNA has the potential to infect virology, in reality it is not,” she said.
Coronavirus can exist on surfaces, but it’s unlikely to make you sick
A person can become infected with coronavirus if they touch a surface or object with viral particles on it and then touch their mouth, nose, or eyes. The lifespan of the virus on objects depends on the material type: One study found that it took a virus three hours for the virus to leave tissue and printing paper, while another showed that virus particles can live up to one day on cardboard and up to three hours. date on plastic and stainless steel.
But coronaviruses are usually spread through airborne droplets (and possibly aerosols), rather than shared surfaces.
“During the entire pandemic to date, products have continued to be shipped around the world. If the transmission of the surface – whether frozen or refrigerated or not – was the main cause of the infection. Infection, we will see more case reports about it, “Howell said and added,” the fact that we are not suggesting that it is not a major route of infection. “
Indeed, the CDC says the virus is “not contagious” from contaminated surfaces, although the agency continues to recommend that people “regularly clean and disinfect” heavily exposed surfaces to prevent room.
Precautions to be taken to reduce the risk of superficial transmission of coronavirus
Howell and Graham both recommend that shippers and shoppers stay alert and diligent during a pandemic.
“The best thing that can be done for manufacturers, shippers and others in the supply chain is to have a policy of wearing a mask, washing hands and staying home when sick,” Howell said.
For individual shoppers, she added, “the best consumer should do is simply avoid touching their faces until they have a chance to wash their hands or use hand sanitizer.”
According to Graham, the likelihood of you touching a contaminated surface in a public store is much higher than having a virus on frozen food.
“It’s not something you should worry about, but you should remain aware of what you touch and then show on your face. That will protect you the most,” she said.
Morgan McFall-Johnsen contributed reports to this story.