FACT FINDERS: How long does the coronavirus live on different items, surfaces?

KOLD FACT FINDERS: How long does the virus last on surfaces

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - The KOLD News13 Fact Finders are working hard to answer all of your questions about COVID-19 in the community.

While going through submitted questions, we noticed a common trend with many people wanting to know long the virus could live on certain items.

Is the virus on my mail?

A study published in The New England Journal of Medicine found the virus can survive, under specific and ideal conditions, up to 24 hours on cardboard. Researchers, at the time, did not look at how long the virus could stay active on paper.

New research published in The Lancet Microbe showed the virus disintegrated quicker on surfaces that had texture, like paper or wood. The study said the virus, in a specific temperature and condition, could not be detected on printed and tissue papers after three hours.

Both the CDC and WHO have reported there is no evidence that COVID-19 is being spread through the mail and the WHO says the likelihood of an infected person contaminating commercial goods is low.

Dr. Randy Horwitz, Medical Director of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine, gives this common sense approach in a Youtube video:

“Mail is likely safe. I mean, only if your mail delivery person has virus and is coughing on your mail, would there be a concern. but If you are concerned, just put your mail aside, leave it outside in the backyard for a bit and the next day, pick it up and look through it.”

The United States Postal Service says millions of masks have been sent to post offices. Delivery procedures have also changed with customers to practice social distancing.

When it comes to packages in cardboard boxes, health experts suggest letting the box sit on your doorstep or in your garage if you know it was just delivered by a person. Always wash your hands after handling mail or deliveries.

Can COVID-19 live on a pill bottle or packaging?

The New England Journal of Medicine study found the virus can survive, under ideal conditions, up to two to three days on plastic. Most pill bottles are made of a type of plastic.

The CDC says filling and dispensing prescriptions does not require use of PPE, however there are guidelines for pharmacies to reduce contact with customers.

Several companies have made adjustments to the protocol in their pharmacies, including Walgreens, CVS, Fry’s and Safeway. I found all of those companies are now offering free delivery services.

According to Express Scripts, an online pharmaceutical service, there is a lower risk the virus will spread from a pill bottle or packaging that is shipped over a period of days or week at ambient, refrigerated or frozen temperatures.

You can always take extra precautions by wiping down the outside of a package with a disinfectant wipes before opening and wash your hands after.

Other surfaces included in The New England Journal of Medicine study:

- Aerosols: Three hours

- Stainless steel: Up to 72 hours

- Copper: Up to four hours

How long does it last on clothes? Will laundry detergent kill the virus?

There is still a lot learn when it comes to COVID-19 and your clothes. While there are studies that show the virus can stay viable on certain surfaces if at ideal conditions, transmission of novel coronavirus to persons from surfaces contaminated with the virus has not been documented.

- When washing your clothing, use the warmest water setting you can to safely wash them.

- You’ll want to dry everything completely.

- Don’t shake dirty laundry.

- Wear disposable gloves when handling dirty laundry from an ill person and then discard after each use.

- Clean and disinfect clothes hampers. If possible, consider placing a bag liner that is either disposable (can be thrown away) or can be laundered.

The American Chemistry Council has a list of products, including detergents, that can be used to fight the virus.

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