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Can I get coronavirus from mail or package deliveries? Should I disinfect my phone?

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According to Google Trends, the top two most searched terms about mobile phones this week in Australia were “how to disinfect phone” and “how to clean your phone.”

And the third most-searched “can I get coronavirus from…?”-style question in the past week in Australia was “can you get coronavirus from mail?” (If you were wondering, “can you get coronavirus from food?” was number one, followed by “can you get coronavirus twice?”)

In short, many Australians are wondering what role phones and mail and/or package deliveries may play in the risk of coronavirus transmission.

To better understand the risk, and what you can do to reduce it, it helps to think about how your phone or mail might come into contact with coronavirus – and what the evidence says about how long it lives on various surfaces.

What do we know about how long the coronavirus can survive on a phone or mail?

Not a whole lot yet.

There has been some general media reporting on the role that surfaces play in the transmission of this coronavirus, termed SARS-CoV-2. That’s the disease that causes COVID-19.

But the main peer-reviewed journal paper on this topic was published about a week ago by the New England Journal of Medicine.

That paper found:

SARS-CoV-2 was more stable on plastic and stainless steel than on copper and cardboard, and viable virus was detected up to 72 hours after application to these surfaces.

It also noted:

On copper, no viable SARS-CoV-2 was measured after 4 hours […] On cardboard, no viable SARS-CoV-2 was measured after 24 hours.

These might be underestimates. The virus may survive even longer on these surfaces, depending on conditions. That’s because these studies looked at how long the virus would survive when in a “buffer” (a solution in which viruses live in the lab). In real life, they would be in mucous and would be more stable.

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The fact that the viruses seemed to last longest on plastic is something of a worry and means that, on phones, the virus could potentially last for days.

It is important to remember this is a new virus and we don’t yet have all the data. New findings are emerging every day.

It’s also possible that, in reality, the virus may last longer on phones than indicated in the recent lab experiments.

CDC data published yesterday detected the faint genetic signature of viruses (viral RNA) which had survived 17 days on surfaces in cruise ships. That doesn’t mean infectious virus particles were found after 17 days – only a part of the virus was detected in this study – but it does suggest there may be some cause for concern regarding how long this coronavirus can last on surfaces. More research is required on this question.

How might virus particles end up on a phone?

Talking on the phone generates an invisible spray of airborne droplets. A person with COVID-19 can have a lot of virus in the mucous at the back of their throat, so they’re likely spraying the virus on their phone every time they make a call.

If an infected person hands their phone to someone else, the virus could transfer to the new person’s fingertips, and then into their body if they touch their mouth, eyes or nose. (And remember, not every infected person displays the classic symptoms of fever and cough, and may be infectious before symptoms show).

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It’s also possible there is an oral-faecal route for transmission of coronavirus. This coronavirus is often detected in faeces.

That means, for example, that tiny particles of poo generated by flushing a toilet could settle on a toothbrush, on a phone brought into the bathroom or on surfaces/food in an adjoining room. They could then end up in your mouth. At the moment this has not been shown, but it is certainly possible. SARS was sometimes spread by this route.

That’s why frequent handwashing with soap is so crucial.

What about mail?

It is technically possible a package or mail coming to your house is contaminated with virus picked up somewhere along the way by people handling or coughing on it. I think, though, the infection risk is very low because, as the New England Journal of Medicine study found, the survival time on cardboard is thought to be around one day.

And unlike plastic surfaces, cardboard is porous. That means a droplet would probably penetrate into the material and may not be so easily picked up when you touch the package.

What can I do to reduce my risk?

For starters, do the obvious things: wash hands frequently, reduce your contact with others (and if you do see other people, stay at least 1.5 metres apart, particularly if you are talking). Definitely don’t go out at all if you’re unwell.

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Keep your phone to yourself. I’d be very reluctant to share my own phone with anyone right now, especially if they seem unwell.

It’s not clear what role children play in the transmission of this coronavirus but, just in case, children should be washing hands before they touch their parents’ phones. That said, it seems more likely at present that adults give it to children than the other way round.

Ideally, you should be cleaning your phones, tablets and keyboards with alcohol wipes (which need to be around 70% alcohol). They are quite effective at deactivating viruses (if somewhat hard to get now). Most baby wipes only have a low percentage of alcohol so are less effective but just the wiping would help remove virus particles.

In the worst-case scenario, you can try using a damp cloth with a small amount of soap and water to clean your phone – but don’t let water get inside your phone and wreck it.

When it comes to mail and package deliveries, try to keep apart from the delivery person. Many delivery people are already forgoing the customary signature on the tablet, meaning you don’t have to touch a device or e-stylus that many others have already handled. You could consider wiping down a package before opening it, and washing your hands well after disposing of the packaging.

At the end of the day, the risk is never zero, and the world is a nightmare if you go too far down this route of worrying about every single surface.

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Nigeria Update

Kwara CoS death: Contact tracing begins

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Kwara State Government has directed that all persons who have had contact with the late chief of staff in the last 14 days to proceed to the COVID-19 Infectious Disease Centre/Hospital at Sobi, Ilorin.

This is to ensure the immediate collection of their samples for test.

Aminu Adisa Logun died on Tuesday evening from COVID-19 complications.

Commissioner for Health Dr Raji Razak said:

“Such persons will thereafter proceed to self-isolate until the result of their test is communicated to them.”

The remains of the deceased were interred yesterday at his Ilorin GRA residence.

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He said:

“After due consultations, the family and the government of Kwara State hereby announce that a dignifying COVID-19 compliant janazah would be held in honour of the late Chief of Staff on Wednesday (today) July 8th at his GRA home in Ilorin, the state capital.

“His janazah shall be supervised by the burial team of the COVID-19 Technical committee in accordance with extant protocols for Muslims.

“The janazah prayer shall be led by the Chief Imam of Ilorin. Only selected family members, a few clerics appointed by His Eminence the Emir of Ilorin, and a few government officials are to attend.

“We empathise with the Governor of Kwara state, the family of our Chief of Staff, and all Kwarans at this mourning period. We further advise that friends, families and associates should please mourn and pray for him from their respective abodes.

“We emphasise that members of the public should kindly respect the privacy of the family and all safety rules at this time and always.”

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Covid-19: Enugu records 37 new cases, 11 deaths

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As the number of the novel coronavirus cases in Enugu state increased to 418, the state has announced that 11 persons have died from the virus as of Wednesday morning.

The State Commissioner of Health, Dr. Ikechukwu Obi, who disclosed the frightening development in a statement, also confirmed new 37 Covid-19 cases in the state.

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Dr Obi said that the new laboratory-confirmed Covid-19 cases have brought the total laboratory-confirmed cases in the state to 418.

He said the;

“number of Covid-19 cases on treatment 186, while the number of Covid-19 cases discharged – 221 and the number of Laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 related deaths 11.”

The Commissioner, however, advised the general public to be responsible, warning that “Covid-19 is real.”

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Covid-19: Edo death toll hits 50

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The death toll from COVID-19 in Edo State has climbed to 50, with 1,435 people testing positive for the disease.

The state, however, said 840 persons have been discharged from its isolation facilities.

Commissioner for Health Dr Patrick Okundia, who stated these to reporters in Benin City, noted that over 50 per cent of the deaths recorded in the state are within the age category of 60 years and above.

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He urged residents to be cautious in protecting themselves and their loved ones.

Expressing worry over the alarming rate of community spread of the virus, Okundia said there was a need for residents to take responsibility and support the government’s efforts at containing the pandemic across communities.

According to him,

“Physical distancing, compulsory use of face masks, hand hygiene and other epidemiological safety rules must be strictly followed to prevent further spread of COVID-19 and protect the people, especially the elderly, who are most vulnerable to COVID-19.”

The commissioner explained that the state recorded 52 new confirmed cases with 32 tested at the Irrua Specialist Hospital (ISTH) laboratory, while the remaining 20 cases were confirmed at the University of Benin Teaching Hospital (UBTH) laboratory.

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Okundia, however, reiterated the need for citizens to present or report themselves through the state COVID-19 toll-free response lines, following any recent travel from high incidence states or contact with confirmed cases.

 

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