Can I get coronavirus by touching food in the supermarket?

Can I get coronavirus by touching food in the supermarket?

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A man wears a protective mask while shopping in a supermarket in San Juan, Puerto Rico,

Astudy published on Tuesday in the New England Journal of Medicine It concluded that the new coronavirus is capable of surviving on steel, plastic and cardboard surfaces, in some even 72 hours. That implies potential days with infective capacity on those surfaces. And also in suspended air: Researchers from the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), Princeton University, and the National Institutes of Public Health of the United States (NIH) saw that the virus had the ability to remain viable up to three hours in the air.

¿These results mean that we can become infected by breathing virus particles floating in the air on the street. or in the supermarket? Y playing a package or a food in the supermarket? ¿Clothing can also transmit the virus? What must be done to avoid it? To resolve these and other doubts, La Vanguardia has interviewed Xavier Abad, head of the IRTA-CReSA High Biological Containment Unit and associate professor at the Autonomous University of Barcelona.

This expert remembers that, despite the fear and the situation of collective alarm, ”We have to be clear that the coronavirus is not everywhere, lurking to infect us. Therefore, in the face of any fear that assails us, the first thing we have to think about is whether it is really probable or possible that the situation we imagine has occurred ”.

Can I get it simply by breathing on the street?

No. To begin with, not the entire population is infected, and the one that is infected does not release viruses with each exhalation, so people who are walking on the street or in a space are not all releasing viruses into the environment. But, in addition, when we breathe or exhale in an outer space, such as a street, our breath is instantly diluted in the immense volume of air in that space, where, as if that were not enough, the conditions are not static, but there is always some displacement of the air, wind.

Common sense must prevail. The coronavirus is not everywhere, stalking us to infect us.

And in the supermarket or in the office?

In supermarkets or offices there is less air volume than in the street, but these spaces usually have air circulation systems, or air conditioning that, if they do not recirculate the air, help dilution again, so it is highly unlikely that contagion occurs. Yes, provided that the safety recommendations are respected and there are no crowds or a high density of people.

Can I get it from touching products in the supermarket?

The first question we should ask ourselves is whether the virus may have actually reached the product in question. “We assume that it has arrived, but we should not think that everything has a virus and, therefore, I touch it and it directly infects me,” insists Abad, who points out that it is highly unlikely that when we pick up a package of food in the supermarket, coronavirus with infective capacity in it and we spread it.

A merchant of Chinese origin tries to protect himself with plastics in his supermarket in the city of Buenos Aires (Argentina). (Juan Ignacio Roncoroni / EFE)

© Provided by La Vanguardia
A merchant of Chinese origin tries to protect himself with plastics in his supermarket in the city of Buenos Aires (Argentina). (Juan Ignacio Roncoroni / EFE)

Still, if we feel uneasy, an easy way to avoid a remote infection would be when we get home. clean the containers with a cloth or kitchen paper moistened with a bleach solution diluted (1/10 to 1/50, one part bleach to 9, or 49 parts, respectively, of tap water). Or remove the outer container and throw it in the trash, as in the case of yogurts, which usually come wrapped in cardboard. Then wash your hands well.

What about picking up a package from a courier?

Healthy skin is a very effective barrier against viruses in general and against coronaviruses, which cannot enter the body through intact skin. Only when we touch our faces, particularly the nasal, buccal or ocular mucosa, with our hands, if they are contaminated, are we at risk of infection. Therefore, if you receive a package, the most effective measure is, once you collect it and save it, wash your hands with soap, with intensity, in this way we interrupt the potential chain of transmission. And it must be remembered that on cardboard, experimental data indicates that SARS-CoV-2 loses its infectivity rapidly.

Can the goods inside the package contain coronaviruses?

If during these days of confinement you have made purchases online, there is no need to fear for a possible contagion. Since the item you bought was produced, it was packaged, shipped from the country of origin, received at a logistics center, taken to a warehouse, and then arrived at your home, weeks or months have passed. Although the coronavirus had been there at first, which is already a lot to suppose, when you receive the product, it is inactive, with no capacity for infection.

A cashier disinfects the dataphone between the passage of each customer in a supermarket in San Sebastián. (Javier Etxezarreta / EFE)

© Provided by La Vanguardia
A cashier disinfects the dataphone between the passage of each customer in a supermarket in San Sebastian. (Javier Etxezarreta / EFE)

Likewise, how can I disinfect the things I buy or enter the home from outside?

Fortunately, products that are sold as disinfectants in the supermarket work. The diluted bleach, the peroxide or the ethanol at a concentration of 70% they also work. For surfaces it is most recommended, also soapy water if the material we want to clean allows it. For the hands the better soapy water or disinfecting solution.

Is disinfection immediate?

No, disinfectants they are not instantaneousTherefore, to take effect, they need to be in contact with the surfaces to be disinfected for a while. This time should be at least between 5 and 15 minutes. After this time, you have to scrub the surface well with a cloth or, better still, with a kitchen paper that we can throw away when finished.

Is the virus spread through clothing?

At IRTA-CReSa they are, precisely, beginning to design tests to see how the virus behaves and persists in different materials, including tissues. Apparently, both on clothing and on paper, being porous surfaces, the virus would be ‘hijacked’, although it is not known whether it would be totally inactive.

On surfaces such as metals or plastics, the virus remains attached to the surface, without being able to penetrate it; So when we run our finger over it, we risk taking it with us. In contrast, on paper and textiles, cotton and even latex, it is much more difficult to recover the virus, which penetrates and binds with greater intensity to the molecules of the porous material. And in that case, it doesn’t matter if it is active or inactive, because it cannot be recovered, which means that you cannot contaminate yourself.

In clothing, the virus penetrates the material, making it highly unlikely to recover and become infected.

So, the messages that run on WhatsApp networks and social networks that you have to wash clothes at 90ºC and dry them in the sun because washing them is not enough, are they false?

They are fake news. Exposing clothing to sunlight warms it and also exposes it to natural ultraviolet rays, which can help inactivate the virus. It is true that, in unwashed sheets and towels from an infected person, it cannot be ruled out that there is an infectious coronavirus, although it is very unlikely that it has the ability to jump into the air and from there go to the mucosa of a person.

A recommendation, especially for those who are responsible for washing clothes that have been in contact with sick people, is to put it in the washing machine without moving it much to avoid aerosols (particles in suspension in the air). And wash it in a cycle of at least 50 degrees, with soap.

Washing hands thoroughly with soap and water is the best protection measure against coronavirus, (LV)

© Provided by La Vanguardia
Washing hands thoroughly with soap and water is the best protection measure against coronavirus, (LV)

Do I have to clean my computer, my table?

If only you use it and there are no other terminals very close, no. If it is a station used by several people, you can clean the keyboard by wiping it with a handkerchief moistened with disinfectant solution. Although the most effective is to wash your hands very well after using the computer and try, meanwhile, not to touch your face with your hands.

The disinfecting solution, in the absence of soap and water, is also a good option. But you have to be generous, do not put a drop and that’s it, but scrub your hands very well, to achieve the same effect as with soap, to break the lipid membrane of the virus and remove superficial dead skin.

In the company, the doors can be left without a latch, so that they can be pushed with the foot or the hip to open them.

How do I open the doors of the office or building I live in?

You can use a tissue to grab the handle, which you then throw away. It is also advisable to leave the doors open without a latch, so that they can be pushed with the foot or the hip and thus avoid touching them with the hands.

What do I do with the shoes?

It may be a good idea to leave them at the entrance of the house. It is not necessary to disinfect it, although if you want more security, you can pass a damp cloth with diluted household bleach down the sole. But it is very unlikely that viruses could have gotten caught in the shoes and that later they could infect a person in your house.


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