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Explainer: What we know about possible COVID-19 transmission from freight and packages

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Explainer: What we know about possible COVID-19 transmission from freight and packages

 

2020-08-13T093206Z_1_LYNXNPEG7C0ND_RTROPTP_4_CHINA-HEALTH-USA.JPG

FILE PHOTO: The ultrastructural morphology exhibited by the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV), which was identified as the cause of an outbreak of respiratory illness first detected in Wuhan, China, is seen in an illustration released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S. January 29, 2020. Alissa Eckert, MS; Dan Higgins, MAM/CDC/Handout via REUTERS.

 

WELLINGTON/BEIJING (Reuters) - China reported several cases of frozen food packaging contaminated with the novel coronavirus this week, while New Zealand said it is investigating the possibility that its latest COVID-19 cases could be traced to imported freight.

 

Here's what has happened and what experts say about it:

 

WHAT'S HAPPENED:

 

-New Zealand reported its first COVID-19 cases in more than three months on Wednesday, prompting a swift reimposition of movement restrictions. Health officials raised the possibility that the virus had arrived in New Zealand via freight, given one of the infected people works at a cool store that takes imported frozen goods from overseas.

 

-China said on Thursday a sample of frozen chicken wings imported into Shenzhen from Brazil had tested positive for the virus. The discovery by local disease control centres was part of routine screenings of meat and seafood imports that have been carried out since June, when a new outbreak in Beijing was linked to the city's Xinfadi wholesale food centre.

 

-Earlier this week, traces of the virus were found in China on the packaging of frozen shrimp from Ecuador and on the outer packaging of imported frozen seafood that arrived at Yantai port from Dalian in northeast China.

 

-Chinese customs officers first found the virus in packaging from Ecuador on July 10. It marked the first positive results from 227,934 samples that had been taken from imported foods, their packaging, and the environment.

 

WHAT EXPERTS SAY ABOUT THE RISK OF INFECTION FROM PACKAGING:

 

-Studies suggest the virus can linger on packaging material between hours and days, depending on the material https://www.who.int/docs/default-source/coronaviruse/risk-comms-updates/update-20-epi-win-covid-19.pdf?sfvrsn=5e0b2d74_2, temperature and humidity, according to the World Health Organization. The virus can stay 4-5 days on plastic or paper.

 

-There is currently no evidence that people can catch COVID-19 from food or food packaging, according to the WHO https://www.who.int/westernpacific/news/q-a-detail/questions-relating-to-consumers, a view backed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other government agencies. Coronaviruses cannot multiply in food – they need a live animal or human host to multiply and survive.

 

-Since the new coronavirus cannot replicate on the surface of food or packaging, it can only become gradually weaker outside a living cell, said Jin Dong-Yan, virology professor at the University of Hong Kong.

 

He did not rule out that a person could spread droplets containing the virus on the surface of food, or a package, and someone else could then contract the virus by touching the surface and then their mouth or nose. But such a case would be rare, he said.

 

-Infection from contact with a frozen virus through imported food "is still not to be considered a major route of infection and still not an event that should substantially affect policy at the public health levels," said Eyal Leshem, director of the Center for Travel Medicine and Tropical Diseases at Sheba Medical Center in Israel.

 

-"The number of virus particles coming out a person's mouth or nose is far greater than a few virus particles remaining on frozen foods, somebody touching it and then spreading it," said T. Jacob John, retired professor of clinical virology at Christian Medical College, Vellore, India.

 

"Among all the risks, I think these are very low risks."

 

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-- © Copyright Reuters 2020-08-13
 

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"previously handled frozen for your protection"

 

A study earlier this year identified frozen fruit – namely raspberries – used to make smoothies as the culprit of a norovirus outbreak that infected hundreds of passengers on multiple cruises from a single company in 2019. So it appears an additional vector that needs to be monitored.

 

CDC: Frozen raspberries were culprit behind 2019 norovirus outbreak on multiple cruises
USA TODAY | Morgan Hines | Published APRIL 24, 2020

 

 

Shoot, now I want a Mango Smoothie.

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The key difference between the Brazil sourced chicken wings and the Chinese sourced  berries in the above example, is that the risks are different. We already know that  Chicken  must be handled properly with  all food preparations surfaces cleaned and disinfected and should be handled as if it has salmonella or e.coli  on it. That is why were are told to wash our hands after handling  chicken and that chicken must be cooked.  Proper handling procedures will reduce the risk of infection to a negligible  level.

 

The Chinese berries should not have been contaminated and that speaks to the likelihood of  field contamination, most likely with raw sewage, or that the berries were not washed with clean water. The berries were most likely not defrosted and  washed prior to use.  Field contamination is a common occurrence now.  This month, an onion  producer in Bakersfield  California has succeeded in  poisoning  900 people in the USA and Canada with its Salmonella contaminated onions. 

 

People should not worry about Covid19  contamination from packaged food. yes, virus particles may be present, but that doesn't mean that the viral load is sufficient to make anyone sick.

 

 

 

 

Th

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18 minutes ago, geriatrickid said:

People should not worry about Covid19  contamination from packaged food. yes, virus particles may be present, but that doesn't mean that the viral load is sufficient to make anyone sick.

 

There was an interesting study recently published in the nytimes and irishtimes that talked about the contentious belief of coronavirus being aerosolized/airborne, and a research team succeeded in isolating live virus from aerosols collected up to 5m from patients hospitalised with Covid-19 – farther than the 2m recommended in social-distancing guidelines.

 

While this is very interesting, the article also states how difficult it is to even collect viable material to test without the collection process damaging the samples.

 

‘A smoking gun’: Infectious coronavirus retrieved from hospital air
Infection of cells by floating virus could be key to understanding community transmission

irishtimes.com | Apoorva Mandavilli | August 11, 2020

 

[...] some experts say it is still not clear that the amount of virus recovered is sufficient to cause infection.

 

The research was exacting. Aerosols are minute by definition, measuring only up to 5 micrometres across; evaporation can make them even smaller. Attempts to capture these delicate droplets usually damage the virus they contain.

 

“It’s very hard to sample biological material from the air and have it be viable,” Shelly Miller says, an environmental engineer at the University of Colorado Boulder who studies air quality and airborne diseases. “We have to be clever about sampling biological material so that it is more similar to how you might inhale it.”

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Can the coronavirus disease be transmitted from food?

It is highly unlikely that people can contract COVID-19 from food or food packaging. COVID-19 is a respiratory illness and the primary transmission route is through person-to- person contact and through direct contact with respiratory droplets generated when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

There is no evidence to date of viruses that cause respiratory illnesses being transmitted via food or food packaging.

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Misinformation, false information and deliberately ignoring science by WHO and governments keeps this pandemic alive and keeps the world in a lock down.

Surface transmission has been debunked largely, aerosols (spread throug smallest droplets) that spread the virus throug airconditioners and ventilation systems have been largely ignored. And most of all, statistics are interpreted wrongly by government departments.

 

A little eye opener on the PCR test for example: https://www.reuters.com/article/uk-factcheck-pcr-idUSKBN24420X

 

So much information is available, however largely ignored because of the circles that government advisors are locked in. Science is sharing information and checking each others findings. That's why there is a devision in the scientific world: Those that are really independent and those that have to stay in line with authorities.

 

Have a nice weekend.

 

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2 hours ago, rickudon said:

We do know that the virus can contaminate surfaces for a period of time. If this is packaged frozen food, that will be an extended time. I do not think any tests have been carried out to test this, but other viruses can survive freezing for long periods.

 

Risk of infection is probably very low, but until proven otherwise, exists.

 

haven't we seen a number of meat-packing plants shut down due to covid19 outbreaks among the workers?  if that's the case, could coughing or sneezing contaminate meat or fish, which is frozen and distributed?

 

i assume the virus can survive a short time frozen.  don't the labs keep their samples frozen until needed?  when thawed, some percentage of the virus reactivates.

 

cooking would kill the virus, but those handling contaminated foods may be at risk.  probably very low risk, but cannot be ruled out yet.

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Just because they can find some small amounts of the virus somewhere doesn't mean it will cause any problems for anyone. Especially on food as most foods will be washed or cooked so the virus will be washed away or killed by cooking.  If you want to,  you can always find additional things to worry about. 

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