Hundreds of USPS workers have tested positive for the coronavirus, but it still may be safer to get postal mail than an Amazon package
- Hundreds of US Postal Service workers have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, but the chances of contracting COVID-19 from a contaminated piece of mail are extremely small, experts say.
- The novel coronavirus only lives for a few hours on paper - possibly less in harsh shipping conditions - and the transfer rate of viruses from paper to a person's fingers is extremely low, only 1-2%, according to Dr. Charles Gerba, a professor of microbiology at the University of Arizona.
- Plastic packaging and plastic packing tape have a higher transfer rate than paper, and allows the virus to live longer on its surface, theoretically increasing a person's chances of picking up the virus on their fingers, according to Gerba. But the risk of that happening is very slim as well.
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization both say that the novel coronavirus spreads mainly through person-to-person contact, rather than contact with contaminated objects and surfaces.
- Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
Hundreds of cases of COVID-19 have been reported within the US Postal Service, and thousands of employees have had to self-quarantine, so some people may be concerned about contracting the coronavirus from a contaminated piece of mail.
But there are several reasons why you may not need to worry about getting sick from your postal mail.
As it turns out, getting the mail is quite safe even in the midst of a global pandemic, according to experts Business Insider spoke with. Dr. Charles Gerba, a professor of public health and microbiology at the University of Arizona, and Dr. Bernard Camins, an infectious disease specialist and a professor of medicine at the Mount Sinai Health System in New York City, both told Business Insider that the risk of falling ill as a result of a contaminated piece of mail is incredibly low.
"The chances of COVID-19 being spread through the mail that you receive is extremely low, and not something that people need to worry about at all," Camins said. Both he and Gerba said that the novel coronavirus likely can't survive for very long on mail under normal shipping conditions, and that only trace amounts of the virus are able to transfer from paper to a person's fingers. According to both experts, though contaminated objects could potentially pose some risk, people's main concern should be maintaining social distance in public.
Both experts said that a large number of cases among postal workers - though a serious problem in its own right - likely doesn't pose a public-health risk as far as getting the virus from a piece of mail. Recent studies, along with recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization, back up their claims.
Here's why you shouldn't be too concerned about contracting COVID-19 through the mail, despite the growing number of confirmed cases within the US Postal Service:
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The novel coronavirus dies fairly quickly on paper, according to a recent study.
Viruses transfer from paper to a person's fingers at extremely low rate, according to experts Business Insider spoke with.
Paper can actually kill the virus, Gerba says.
The overall threat the mail poses is slim, but the type of mail you receive could potentially increase your chances of getting sick, according to Gerba.
The novel coronavirus probably can't survive for very long under normal shipping conditions, according to the WHO and the CDC.
There has never been an illness that was transmitted through the mail in any significant way, according to Gerba.
The WHO and CDC both say that the novel coronavirus likely spreads primarily through person-to-person contact, rather than through contact with contaminated objects.
If mail carriers keep their distance, wear protective equipment, and stay home if they are sick, the chances of them contracting or spreading COVID-19 through person-to-person contact is low, both the experts Business Insider spoke with said.
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