Postal mail vs. Other packages. What is more secure?

  • Hundreds of U.S. postal service workers have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, but the chances of contracting COVID-19 from contaminated mail are extremely low, experts say.
  • The novel coronavirus only lives for a few hours on paper – perhaps less in harsh shipping conditions – and the rate of transfer of viruses from paper to a person’s fingers is extremely low, only 1 to 2 percent, according to the Dr Charles Gerba, professor of microbiology at the University of Arizona.
  • Plastic packaging and plastic packaging tapes have a higher transfer rate than paper and allow the virus to live longer on its surface, theoretically increasing a person’s chances of contracting the virus on their fingers, according to Gerba.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization both say the new coronavirus is spread primarily through person-to-person contact.
  • Visit the Business Insider 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 fear contracting the coronavirus from a contaminated mail.

But there are several reasons why you might not have to worry about getting sick from your postal mail.

It turns out that receiving the mail is pretty safe even in the midst of a global pandemic, according to experts Business Insider spoke to. Dr Charles Gerba, professor of public health and microbiology at the University of Arizona, and Dr Bernard Camins, infectious disease specialist and professor of medicine at Mount Sinai Health System in New York City, both told Business Insider that the risk of getting sick from contaminated mail is incredibly low.

“The chances of COVID-19 spreading through the mail you receive are extremely low, and it’s not something people need to worry about at all,” Camins said. He and Gerba both said the new coronavirus likely couldn’t survive on mail for very long under normal shipping conditions, and only traces of the virus could be transferred from paper to a person’s fingers. According to the two experts, although contaminated objects can potentially present some risk, the main concern of people should be to maintain social distancing in public.

The two experts said that a large number of cases among postal workers – although this is a serious problem in itself – probably do not pose a risk to public health in terms of transmission of the virus to mail. Recent studies, as well as recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization, support their claims.

Here’s why you shouldn’t be too worried about contracting COVID-19 through the mail, despite the growing number of confirmed cases within the U.S. Postal Service:

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