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Can coronavirus live on your mail, packages?

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WATCH: How long can the novel coronavirus live on mail packages?

With more of us online shopping these days or relying on shipped products, our mailboxes may be getting full.

While health officials urge Canadians to wash their hands and clean high-contact surfaces, like door handles, to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, do you need to disinfect your mail?

“When it come to paper, like your mail or money in some countries, there aren’t any definitive studies yet [on how long the virus can live], but I would exercise caution,” said Dr. Lukasz Kwapisz, a Houston, Texas-based gastroenterologist.
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READ MORE: Can the new coronavirus live on coats, shoes? Experts weigh in

Kwapisz said the virus can “probably live on paper surfaces for hours — not days,” but says people should “wait an extra day” before opening their mail if concerned.

“Either way, those same rules still apply. … Wash your hands after each time you’ve touched your mail or packages. That’s still the best way to protect yourself,” he said.

Health Canada says the coronavirus can survive on various surfaces depending on different conditions, including temperature, type of surface and humidity of the environment.

The government agency says products shipped within or from outside Canada could be contaminated, yet “because parcels generally take days or weeks to be delivered, and are shipped at room temperature, the risk of spread is low.”

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Coronavirus outbreak: What happens after we flatten the curve?

“There is no known risk of coronaviruses entering Canada on parcels or packages,” Health Canada says on its website.

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Previous research by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases found the coronavirus could be detected on plastic and stainless steel three days after contamination.

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On cardboard, the virus was not viable after 24 hours. On copper, it took four hours for the virus to become inactive.

To perform the experiment, researchers used an aerosol device to mimic the microscopic droplets that would be caused by a cough or a sneeze. Next, they waited to see how long the virus would remain on surfaces.

READ MORE: Small space and no equipment? Here’s how you can still exercise

Dr. Alon Vaisman, an infection control and infectious diseases physician at Toronto’s University Health Network, previously told Global News that while reports like these are important for the medical community, the average Canadian needs to remember that all of this is done in a lab.

“The thing that people should realize is that when you use these machines to aerosolize, you are aerosolizing at a very high rate, like a very intense level … and they’re also using a very high dose of the virus,” he said.

Still, Vaisman said it’s important Canadians are aware of possible risks, and practise good health measures, like handwashing and social distancing.

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Can COVID-19 stick to your shoes?

The World Health Organization (WHO) says that the “likelihood of an infected person contaminating commercial goods is low,” and the risk of catching the coronavirus from a package that has “been moved, travelled, and exposed to different conditions and temperature is also low.”

The WHO adds that if you think a surface may be infected, “clean it with simple disinfectant to kill the virus and protect yourself and others.”

The organization also says people should clean their hands with soap and water or hand sanitizer.

— With a file from Arti Patel 

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.

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Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

Laura.Hensley@globalnews.ca