Can COVID-19 be transferred through the mail?

  • There is low risk of catching coronavirus through letters and packages
  • COVID-19 spreads primarily from person to person—not from a surface
  • You still should wash your hands after handling your mail

Since the coronavirus spreads primarily through respiratory droplets from the nose and mouth, the concern that people can catch it through the mail or through delivery packages is mostly baseless. Although the virus can live on some surfaces—up to 24 hours on cardboard, and up to two to three days on plastic and steel—you are still very unlikely to contract COVID-19 from touching a contaminated surface.

According to Dr. Joseph Vinetz, an infectious disease specialist at Yale Medicine, “detection does not mean transmissible.”

Unlike food delivery from your local restaurant, the basic conditions a package goes through also makes it more difficult to survive.

“It is likely that the temperature outside and the length of time the package is in shipping may impact the survival of the virus on that surface,” said Dr. Alan Koff, chief fellow of the infectious disease program at Yale School of Medicine. “That’s in contrast to the lab settings viruses are usually tested in. All that’s to say, of course, that even if coronavirus did make it on to a package, it would likely not make it to your door.”

The CDC and WHO have also both provided similar advice regarding the safety of handling mail and other packages.

“In general, because of poor survivability of these coronaviruses on surfaces, there is likely very low risk of spread from food products or packaging that are shipped over a period of days or weeks at ambient, refrigerated, or frozen temperatures,” the CDC wrote.

The WHO added: “The likelihood of an infected person contaminating commercial goods is low and the risk of catching the virus that causes COVID-19 from a package that has been moved, traveled and exposed to different conditions and temperature is also low.”

But if you still find yourself concerned, there is a very simple solution: Wash your hands thoroughly after handling the mail or packages—as you should be doing anyway.

Sources: Health.com, WHO, CDC

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