Is There A Connection? : Goats and Soda : NPR

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A well being officer in a protecting go well with collects a pattern from a bundle of imported frozen meals for coronavirus fast take a look at at a wholesale market in China.

Wu Zheng/VCG by way of Getty Images

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Wu Zheng/VCG by way of Getty Images

A well being officer in a protecting go well with collects a pattern from a bundle of imported frozen meals for coronavirus fast take a look at at a wholesale market in China.

Wu Zheng/VCG by way of Getty Images

At a information convention this week, the World Health Organization made a stunning assertion: The coronavirus might presumably transmit on frozen packages of meals.

“We know that the virus can persist and survive in conditions that are found in these cold and frozen environments,” says Peter Ben Embarek, the meals scientist who led the World Health Organization crew that traveled to China to analyze the origin of the pandemic. “But we don’t really understand if the virus can then transmit to humans.”

Embarek went on to say that scientists want to analyze additional this doable route of transmission – and that frozen meat, maybe frozen wild meat, might have sparked an early outbreak of COVID-19 final 12 months on the Huanan Seafood market in Wuhan.

“There were definitely frozen meat and seafood sheltered at Huanan, some of it probably farmed wildlife,” says illness ecologist Peter Daszak, who was additionally a part of WHO’s crew in China. “But there was a lot else going on at the market, as well.” For instance, there have been additionally stalls promoting contemporary seafood and wildlife. And, Daszak says, the outbreak might have began from an contaminated vendor or buyer. “We are keeping every option on the table and trying to keep an open mind about it.”

Chinese scientists have linked a number of outbreaks within the nation final 12 months to frozen packages of meat or seafood. In explicit, an outbreak in Beijing final summer season centered round an enormous wholesale market, referred to as Xinfadi Market.

Scientists found dwell coronavirus on a bundle of frozen cod fish there. They additionally discovered indicators of the virus contained in the packaging, Daszak says, suggesting the bundle turned contaminated the place the frozen meals was packed.

“It was a good bit of detective work,” Daszak says.

For the outbreak within the Xinfadi Market, Daszak says, individuals seem to have caught the virus from a floor. “We don’t know if that means the virus was introduced that way. And we don’t know if that happened at Huanan seafood market. We’re still looking at that.”

These outcomes – and the statements from WHO — have been a bit stunning, as a result of they go in opposition to what scientists have been telling us for a couple of months now. That you catch COVID-19 primarily by means of the air, not surfaces. And you need not wipe down meals packages.

So what offers?

First off, this Xinfadi Market isn’t your native Trader Joe’s, says microbiologist Emanuel Goldman at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School. Xinfadi is big. It’s 12 million sq. ft — bigger than 200 soccer fields. Inside, employees obtain worldwide shipments of enormous pallets of frozen meat and seafood which they ship to shops throughout Beijing. The fish is not in in individually-packaged packing containers, such as you discover in a frozen meals part of the grocery retailer. A large frozen slab is a really completely different floor and has very completely different situations than a small bundle of fish sticks. The slab will keep colder for longer, and the virus might survive on it – or in it — longer.

In different phrases, Goldman says, the setting inside this warehouse could be very completely different from one {that a} common client would ever discover themselves in. So far, solely warehouse employees and dock employees, receiving worldwide packages, have been presumably contaminated by means of these frozen packages.

“China hasn’t had any reports of consumers, of even suspicion, of consumers being infected by this route,” Goldman says.

Second, Goldman says, even beneath these very particular situations — with industrial-scale transport — transmission by means of this route is extremely uncommon.

“It’s so rare as to be of negligible importance in the real world to most people,” he provides. In reality, he says, you would be extra more likely to win the lottery than get contaminated by means of a frozen bundle of meals. “And it would have to be one of those lotteries with very few winners, like the Publishers Clearinghouse Sweepstakes.”

“It’s very unlikely that you would get the virus from food,” he provides. “SARS-Cov-2 is a virus you get by breathing.”

So the unique recommendation stands, Goldman says. You need not wipe down your frozen pizza field or put on gloves once you go to purchase frozen fish sticks. And for those who’re nonetheless nervous about packaging, he says, “Just wash your hands with soap and water.”

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